Sometimes your task as a reviewer can feel daunting before it’s even begun. And it was one of those nights as I headed to the iconic Royal Albert Hall for Cirque du Soleil’s latest creation. What more is there to say about this incredible troupe, after hearing their name alongside gasps of delight for years? Founded by former street performers in Montreal in the 1980s, Cirque du Soleil is synonymous with breath-taking circus performances and, it won’t surprise anyone to read, it did not disappoint. I don’t think I’ve shared so many amazed looks with my Dad since I was a child: a magical experience for us both.
Kurios is their latest creation; a mix of jaw-dropping moments, beautiful design, and hilarious interludes. The press night invitation suggests guests dress in steampunk inspired outfits, and those that do blend in beautifully with the set and costumes. The first glimpse of the stage through the doors to the auditorium illicits childlike gasps from my Dad and I, before we have even taken our seats. It’s stunning – an overused word that more than earns its value tonight. Before the show starts characters are pottering around the stage, and as the lights descend, we’re transported to a French steampunk fever dream.
One of the first of many remarkable performances sees Volodymyr Klavdich and Ekaterina Evdokimova appear on a small platform, where we witness Evdokimova thrown into the air with the greatest of ease. Although 95% of me is filled with joy and admiration, 5% is terrified! It’s a tricky watch for those of a nervous disposition. But the elation on every catch and beautifully completed performance is worth each nail-biting second.
Other acrobatic highlights include the surprisingly moving trapeze act featuring Roman Tomanov and Vitali Tomanov. The beauty of these two impossibly strong men is a privilege to witness. It was hard to watch James Gonzalez in his act, Rola Bola, without covering your eyes – how did he stay upright? And don’t get me started on the sequence with the stacked chairs! Just when you think they can’t take it further… well I won’t spoil it, but gasps of delight and awe once again filled the auditorium. Lighter moments come from other members of the cast including Facundo Gimenez and his magnificent invisible circus and the charmingly bizarre Theatre of Hands with Nico Baixas.
The world of Kurios has been immaculately created, and along with the remarkable set design and costumes, the music and charismatic musicians form the perfect accompaniment. Close your eyes as the accordion tunes swell, and you could easily be strolling through Montmartre, whilst in other moments the driving bass only serves to increase your heart rate as you pray that they’ll make that impossible leap.
This show is seamless. These are high risk performances and things can go wrong. But you never notice a safety harness being added or removed. You don’t even notice a giant trampoline being taken off stage. The other characters distract you; they sweep you along in the obscure narrative. And you’re enraptured by this magical world where people soar through the air.
It would have been surprising had this performance not been impressive, but I have to admit that the scale of my wonder blew me away. I was so totally captivated throughout, it was a sad realisation when the curtain call began. It’s worth flagging that tickets for this show are not cheap, pretty eye-watering in fact if you want to be in the stalls, but if you are able to get there somehow, it will be well-worth the effort.
Written and directed by: Michel Laprise
Creative direction by: Chantal Tremblay
Acrobatic performances designed by: Rob Bollinger, Germain Guillemot and Boris Verkhovsky
Composed by: Bob & Bill, Raphaël Beau
Kurios, The Cabinet of Curiosities plays at Royal Albert Hall until 5 March 2023. Further information and tickets can be found here.