Circuses have captivated us for centuries, we recognise it as an art of form: the exploration of ideas through physicality and celebration of capabilities of the human body. That’s why we are always craving for talented performers pushing the boundaries of their flexibility and endurance, but the magic only works if the circus has other crucial element such as light, music, costumes and set design.
The synergy of all mentioned above makes Cirque du Soleil one of the pinnacles in this area of entertainment.
Alegría: In a New Light
This year the Montreal-based entertainment company brought a reimagined version of Alegría to the Royal Albert Hall. Arguably the most iconic production, the show was presented in 255 cities and seen by more than 14 million spectators across the globe over the course of its 19-year run, until its farewell tour in 2013.
Alegría’s theme song, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1995 and continues to be a fan favourite, is the most listened-to Cirque du Soleil song on streaming platforms.
The London engagement marks the European Premiere of the show. For such an extensive 5,000 capacity auditorium, the hall has a unique feeling of intimacy, which has lent itself very well to Cirque shows. The tiered audience is never far from the action – if you’re perched in the higher seats, Cirque performers are at eye level so everyone gets a good view regardless of where they are sat.
The modified version is fun, silly and daring with even more colour, suspense and death-defying stunts. Alegría’s talented cast has a clear ambition to mesmerise audiences familiar with their unique acts and to lure new devotees.
The plot is spinning around a glorious kingdom that has lost its king, Alegría: In a New Light witnesses the power struggle at play between the old order and the youth in striving for hope and renewal. Every aspect of the production reflects on this never-ending existential conflict, from two opposite yet complementary singers in black and white to the stage with a rotating floor which represents a constant state of flux – how the world around us is unpredictable and never as we expect it to be.
A breathtaking and visually stunning show
Balancing somewhere between happiness and gloom, the show is both terrifying and delightful – but above all, it will make you wonder. From the opening extravaganza with the performers balancing and bouncing on bamboo-like poles to Yan “Joann” Zhuang, a woman who could do anything with a hula hoop… literally, to Iryna Galenchyk and Vladyslav Drobinko, whose romantic paired aerial act is a wonder of strength and grace, followed by Daria Kalinina and Halina Starevich’s hand-to-hand performance as they weave in and out of different shapes in perfect synchronisation.
A feast for the eyes
Looking at the audience cheering every artist makes it certain nothing will ever replace the excitement that a skilled performer risking his or her life can generate in front of a crowd. This is the gift of the circus: A vision of what time, tenacity and a heedless approach to muscle strain can achieve. You don’t see something like that every day.
Alegría features all the types of acts audiences one would expect from a Cirque du Soleil show – trapeze, acrobatics, ropes, fire, and music.
It seems like all of the performers know overall acrobatics but specialise in one particular skill. For example, even jester Mr Fleur (Bohdan Zavalishyn) who has ambitions to be king, surprises the audience with an impressive jump at the finale with gravity-defying acrobats vault on and off a trampoline. The last act is a jaw-dropping climax – aerialists swing back and forth across the stage catching each other with no strings attached this time, just a flying trapeze.
Blizzard of entertainment
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.
Throughout there were appearances by the duo of clowns, Pablo Bermejo and Pablo Gomis Lopez, both of whom were legitimately funny – a circus rarity. To the audience’s amazement one of the clowns suddenly starts a whirlwind snow storm that engulfs everyone in an endless shower of fluttering white flecks.
Alegría is a show with something for everyone, if you’re a theatre-goer, thrillseeker or if you just want to be entertained then this is for you. The only minor complaint about the performance is that it ended too soon – those two hours absolutely flew by!
Cirque du Soleil Alegría: In a New Light is on until March 3, 2024 at the Royal Albert Hall. Tickets and more info can be found here.
Image credits: © Matt Beard, Dominique Lemieux, Saskia Potter