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…

The 1960’s in colour

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Necessary Lies Diane Chamberlain

Fans of this popular author will tell you they love her characters. And quite rightly, her characterisation is terrific, which is doubly terrific when you know see the ensemble approach she takes.

This is the second of Diane’s books that I’ve read.  Today, as I reflected on it, what strikes me is her strength in conveying messages and ideas through inanimate characters. In The Silent Sister, it was a necklace and violin. In this book the 1960’s is a character in a way that you don’t expect in a book that’s more contemporary fiction and less historical fiction.  Few historical fiction writers give the era they focus on such a strong character.  My only real comparison is the way New York is the fifth character in Sex and The City.

Instantly you’re right in the 1960’s. This is not a 21st century version, but the real thing. The racism, sexism and superiority infiltrate your brain so subtly. You don’t need anything else to explain Jane’s marriage and her choices.  She’s not a heroine of my time but of two generations ago, such a difference. It was almost creepy how the author let you see that without telling you.

It was clear that few of the characters had choices, in fact even the wealthy men were with one exception stuck in their time.

This book might be an easy enjoyable read, but it should essential reading for every student of 20th century America, especially women’s history.

The real power in this ending comes not in the way the story finishes (which is lovely) but in the author’s notes where it becomes clear that this Eugenics approach wasn’t a few rogue administrators which I had assumed. This was known government policy. And they say that truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes it’s simply worse than fiction.

 

For transparency’s sake I should add that on her recent trip to London I was part of a group who had afternoon tea with the author. Whilst, meeting her encouraged me to read her books it has no bearing on my recommendation.