Advertisement

Cirque du Soleil's Alegria at the Royal Albert Hall review: will leave you breathless all over again

 ( )
( )

Cirque Du Soleil's latest show Alegria is also one of their oldest. It had already been around for 20 years when I first saw it as a rookie reviewer a decade ago and my socks were knocked off by the sheer spectacle of this trailblazing form of contemporary circus.

Ten years on, I've acquired different socks but they were knocked off again last night by this reimagined version, subtitled In A New Light and directed by Jean-Guy Legault.

There are, however, reservations. Most notably it does not feel so trailblazing, with the likes of intimate variety shows La Clique making circus skills sexier. Even second time around, I still struggled to decipher the plot. Something to do with hope, resilience, new replacing old and the notion that maybe a fool can become a king.

Jester Mr Fleur (Bohdan Zavalishyn) is the low status bumbler with one eye on the throne, not that you would know this without the programme notes. But when the acrobats start soaring high above you on the trapeze any misgivings fall away. Even when you can see that Roxane Semiankiv and Nicolai Kuntz are secured by safety strings there is still a gasp factor watching mere mortals flying around as if they are Marvel superheroes.

Of course there are lapses. The music, slickly performed and much loved by devotees, is a soup of pop and power ballads. It may not be a coincidence that Cirque started out in Canada, the country that gave the world Celine Dion.

The clowns, Pablo Bermejo and Pablo Gomis Lopez, quickly outstay their welcome but insist on repeatedly returning. Most of their inane chatter is non-English, but at one point one of them let out a plaintive cry of "Why?". I could not have put it better myself.

For every tiresome pratfall, though, there is a spellbinding act, from Samoans dancing with flaming knives to Yulia Makeeva and Alexey Turchenko indulging in a mid-air pas de deux while hanging by straps.

At one point the stage is transformed into a huge trampoline track for a muscular troupe who make the recent revived TV Gladiators look like wimps.

And just when you think it cannot get any more impressive, the finale finds 13 of the finest aerialists you'll ever see leaving you breathless as they swing back and forth across the stage catching each other – no strings attached this time.

Alegria apparently means happiness, and these precision-tooled performers certainly leave their audience smiling. Bring spare socks for when your first pair get knocked off.

Royal Albert Hall, to March 3; book tickets here