Cirque du Soleil celebrates the 30th anniversary of its internationally acclaimed production of Alegría. First performed in 1994, the revival returns to London at the Royal Albert Hall for a limited time and marks the European Premiere of the re-envisioned show for a new audience.
Alegría (‘joy’ in Spanish) is described as a ‘classic reimagined for a new generation to fall in love with’ and the iconic Royal Albert Hall is a wonderful venue to re-introduce this immense production. The set design (Anne-Séguin Poirier), with elaborate structures and arresting lights is striking; transforming the auditorium and seductively coaxing the audience to lose themselves in the entertainment about to unfold. Alegría tells the story of a Kingdom that has lost its king and is undergoing a power struggle between the old order and the youth in strive for hope and renewal. Whether the audience will be able to decipher the storyline without the aid of a programme is up for debate. It feels like an extra detail tacked on to loosely connect the acts together, with neither a clear through line or conclusion. The disconnect is buffered by the Clowns (Pablo Bermejo and Pablo Gomis Lopez) who provide some comical relief however, despite their humorous interludes the narrative remains somewhat incongruent and redundant to the production as whole. All is forgiven when the acrobats take centre stage and this is where Cirque du Soleil really shines, living up to its reputation of being an incredibly slick and professional tour de force; proving why it’s so loved worldwide.
It has to be emphasised how incredible are the feats of athleticism and physical ability that each one of these artists displays. And to do this multiples times every week? Just unbelievable! From performers leaping and twisting on precariously narrow Acro Poles to the hypnotising twirl of the spinning Cyr Wheel (Ghislain Ramage), every aspect of what they do is a testament to their immense discipline and dedication to their craft. Even with the safety wires attached to the acrobats, the nervous anticipation of each balance, throw and catch still fizzes in the atmosphere whilst the audience gasp; silently willing each act to go perfectly without a hitch.
Some highlights include the Samoan troupe who perform the exhilarating Fire Knife Dance led by Falaniko Solomona Penesa, the strong and graceful female gymnastics duo Hand to Hand (Daria Kalinina and Halina Starevich), the fantastic aerialists somersaulting above the audience for Flying Trapeze (without safety wires but thankfully with a net just in case) and the floating pas de deux by Yulia Makeeva and Alexey Turchenko, who make performing using only aerial straps to support them look enchanting and effortless. And not to forget the two vocalists, particularly the Singer in Black (Cassia Raquel) whose melodic acrobatics accompany the live music score.
Some may shy away from Cirque du Soleil for being a bit dated, too precise and polished for the changing styles of contemporary circus. Its high budget, mass appeal aesthetic does lack the seductive flare of La Clique or the high-octane grit of Nofit State Circus. But what Cirque du Soleil lacks in modish concepts it gains in quality. And despite how flamboyant and expensive the show may look, there is no negating the extreme risks every performer puts themselves through each night.
There is definitely something for everyone in Alegría (even the hardcore, no safety wires circus lovers) and during these frosty, dark January nights, a little burst of ‘joy’ is a commodity we can all appreciate.
Directed by: Jean-Guy Legault
Composed by: René Dupéré
Lighting Design by: Mikki Kunttu
Choreography by: Émilie Therrien
Alegría plays at the Royal Albert Hall from Thursday 11 January – Sunday 3 March 2024. Further information and bookings can be found here.