Cirque du Soleil - Kooza, London, Feb 2013
As you’d expect, expectations were very high as we approached the Royal Albert Hall clutching our tickets. I’ve seen many great Cirque du Soleil acts but only on YouTube so I was eager to see the most famous circus in the world live.
While the show was excellent, I have to say I was a bit disappointed given the reputation of Cirque du Soleil. The numerous clowns had far too much stage time. There were at least two occasions when an audience member was selected and dragged onto stage. Luckily for the King character and his sidekicks the chap they selected was game for some fun, had they got a shy, nervous type this act would have dragged much more than it did.
The second piece of audience participation featured the Pickpocket who performed fairly obvious sleight of hand tricks. His first victim seemed to have enough of the limelight and walked off stage before the act reached half way. The Pickpocket’s replacement victim was more willing and saw the act through. However, it did mean we went over some of the same ground again.
Kooza’s clowns were good, as far as clowns go, but these acts are the sort of thing you can see a talented performer do in Covent Garden for free. Give the price of Cirque tickets you’d expect every act to amaze and not to be slightly bored by an over-abundance of clowns.
That said, there were many great aspects of this show. The little narrative of the central character, The Innocent being transported to a world created by his sub-conscious by the mischievous Trickster held the whole show together well. The music was excellent and obviously very well rehearsed with the acts.
Apart from the clowns, most of the acts were very good, and a couple were exceptional. The opener, Charivari, involving acrobats and walking globes was a good way to introduce the show but not hugely memorable. The contortion act was one of the best I’ve seen. The three performers made structures out of themselves in an almost dance-like choreography that made this act much more interesting than your average contortion performance.
Kooza contained a fair amount of acrobalance. The first such act was good and impressed some of the company I was with but seasoned circus enthusiasts will have seen better in other shows. The second acro-balance act, however, was one of the highlights of the show. The male performer rode a unicycle without so much as a wobble while holding and throwing his female partner around.
The solo swinging trapeze act was impressive and featured triple twists among other acrobatic feats. The chair balancing act was a little slow despite the exquisite control the performer displayed.
The other two stand-out acts were, of course, the Wheel of Death (which I feel lucky to have seen given a lot of poor reviews from disappointed customers whose show lacked this act) and the tightwire act. The intensity, speed and sheer danger involved with the Wheel of Death is enough to get anyone’s heart racing. It is perhaps not the most skilful of the acts but it was certainly the most exciting.
The double tightwire act was sublime. The four wire-walkers danced along the lines in totally control just as if they were on flat, wide ground. The stage hands didn’t even bring the safety net in until some way through the act when the performers started standing on each other while walking the wire. The finale of this act featured two of the performers riding bikes on the wire while suspending a bar between their shoulders and a third performer balanced on that bar sat on a chair. It was definitely the best high wire act I have seen.
The finale of the whole show featured acrobats flipping, twisting and tucking themselves off a teeter board. Circus-goers will have seen teeter board acts before and this one was just as impressive as those in other highly-regarded productions. It was, however, a bit short. Looking at the Cirque website after the show I realised why – the stilt section of the teeter board act was missing.
For those who hadn’t seen Cirque du Soleil before, this would have been a good place to start. It was great to see the high production values live but having seen acts online I did expect a little more from the world-famous Canadian circus. It means I’m looking forward to their next UK venture but had I seen one of their better shows previously I might have left more disappointed than I did.