Sticks, girls & guitars

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AmaLuna Cirque du Soleil on at the Royal Albert Hall until March 6th

These French Canadian performers have long had the patent on creating acts that mesmerise and make your heart pound. Yet, they may just have outdone themselves.

The Balance Goddess created a silence that was so deafening I couldn’t even hear my heart – maybe it stopped.  With every stick she collected and added to her structure silence boomed throughout the Royal Albert Hall.  At the end as she flicked her wrist to collapse the gorgeous art she’d created, never before had I understood the real meaning of bravery in a performance.

Last year’s wheel of death where the rather yummy acrobats defied gravity above the heads of their audience simply cannot compare.  Yes, I held my breath as they leapt about. But if they’d missed the audience would have understood, the show would have been intact.

Not so with the Balance Goddess and her sticks. If she’d dropped a stick or lost control of the structure that was it for the show.  That’s all anyone would have remembered and they would never have known her intent. Given the number of performers involved, can you imagine the pressure? Serious kudos to her. First class bravery.

And wow was it spine tillingly.

Amaluna’s other star? The music.  Always Cirque music is fantastic, here it vied with a girl and her sticks to steal the show.

And I should of course add that the whole show is a celebration of women – old and young. Girl power newly interpreted, stunningly beautiful and with simplicity at its heart, just like all good women!

If Cirque for you is all about the big acts one after another taking your breath away – then skip this. If you want to float away to join a mythical island for just a little while you’ll love it.  It’s been a little while since Cirque combined the music, the setting artistry and the acts with their trademark global story telling better than this.

Now to wait another whole year…

something for everyone even sitting with the gods!

Kooza Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall

Its January – time for London’s annual Cirque love in.

In many ways Kooza defines the Cirque conundrum – is it a variety style traditional circus or a well crafted story shedding some light on the modern world?

The programme says this is about “the innocent” – I guess that was the guy in the pjs with the kite and so this then is his journey to enlightenment.  Possibly…

Noel Gallagher might say “Whats the story morning glory?”.

I actually think that misses the point of Cirque and why Kooza in particular is so well loved.  You go knowing you’re going to be amazed, surprised and moved sometimes all at once.  You’re not there for the story.

And that’s what Kooza unlike the over indulgent “O” gets right – this is about the acts not the transformation of some innocent.

What sets every Cirque show apart from anything else is the one jaw dropping act.  In this case its screaming as some gorgeous man theatrically loses his footing on the wheel of death – or rather twin wheels of death.    Yes, I screamed – really I did.  And its the third time I’ve seen this show – maybe next time?!

Yet, screaming aside what I remember 24 hours later is the music, the clowns and the set. When it comes to sets Totem outclasses them all for sheer wonder and inventiveness (the swimming scenes are pretty much beyond words).  But this simple set, perfect for the Royal Albert Hall, showcases the music probably better than any other Cirque show.  And what music it is – sublime.  Mostly it steals the show.

Cirque’s clowns give the show personality as you’d expect from a company created from street theatre.  We were lucky enough to have the lost American tourist sit behind us, we ended up covered in both popcorn and confetti but thankfully the peeing dog missed us!  This brings us to the dilemma of a Cirque show – where you sit fundamentally affects your experience of the show.  The wrong seat and actually as I found last year with “O” and the experience is severely affected.

For Kooza seats up in the gods give an amazing view of the acrobatics – very strong with this show.  Seats close to the stage and you’re part of the madness.  I guess those in the boxes had the best view of the Chinese contortionists.   Something for everyone – bang on for Kooza.  Something for the Cirque fans who love the journey the story takes you on and something for those who just don’t get it but want to be amazed.