★★★★ | Cirque du Soleil: Kooza at the Royal Albert Hall
Founded in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has been around so long now that finding something fresh to come up with in each new show must be a major headache. That they succeed as well as they do is a tribute to their creative team, which is still guided by Guy Laliberte, one of the founders.
Their show, Kooza, which premiered in Montreal in 2007 is receiving its UK premiere in the Royal Albert Hall, the scene of many of Cirque du Soleil’s successes, the hall’s Victorian rococo splendour and circular shape particularly suited to their shows. In this instance the stunning set had the look of a massive Faberge egg, which opened to reveal its magic and secrets.
According to the lavish programme booklet Kooza tells the story of the innocent, a naïve but charming clown striving to find his own place in the world, and as usual it is the clowns who tell that story whilst linking the various acts together. They have their own charm, but there’s no doubt it’s the daredevil acts that the audience have come to see, and as usual they do not disappoint.
For me the highlight of the evening was the death defying Wheel of Death, a spinning contraption with two empty drums on either side, in which, and on which, two male acrobats (Jimmy Ibarra and Ronald Solis) perform seemingly impossible feats, running and leaping as if the spinning of the drums was little more than a paltry distraction. Almost equally thrilling were the high trapeze antics of Yulia Korosteleva, who leaped and flew through the air with insouciant ease.
In contrast, we had a trio of impossibly bendy female contortionists and a man (Yao Deng Bo) who proceeded to balance himself on one hand on a huge tower of chairs which he constructed before our eyes. As a display of strength, concentration and accuracy, it was utterly mesmerising.
That said, I don’t think this show was quite on a par with Varekai, which I saw at the Royal Albert Hall some years ago, and the finale of which will stay in my mind for a very long time to come, so 4 rather than 5 stars for me.
Kooza plays at the Royal Albert Hall till February 19.
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