Thursday, 8 January 2015

Review: Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza at the Royal Albert Hall

Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza 
Royal Albert Hall
Reviewed on Tuesday 6th January 2015

Since its birth from humble beginnings in 1984, contemporary circus group Cirque du Soleil has grown into a global phenomenon with no less than 18 productions currently running around the world, including two lucrative residencies in Las Vegas. 

So the arrival of the company in London is something of a big deal. But is the development into corporate giant (A programme? That will be £10, please) likely to be at the expense of the intimacy and sense of wonder that gave Cirque du Soleil its fame in the first place? 

Exactly one year on from the European premiere of Kooza at the same venue, the company returns for a six week run, and while there are several moments of wonder, there are also moments that seemed to stall momentum and spoil the atmosphere — sorry, clowns, but you really overstayed your welcome on occasion. 

The story, such as it is, follows the fortunes of The Innocent (Stephen Landry), a naïve young clown who is schooled in the ways of the world by the enigmatic Trickster (Joey Arrigo). But the problem is you’d never really know that if you’d not read the show synopsis beforehand or shelled out the tenner on a programme. As a narrative it’s all rather thinly drawn and doesn’t really work as a device on which to hang the circus acts that everyone has come to see. 

Lack of real plot aside though, Kooza still contains moments of breathtaking spectacle that had the audience screaming with delight, fear and wonder.

The trapeze artistry of Yulia Korosteleva had my heart in my mouth, as did the stunning high-wire troupe that closed the first act. Both of these acts personify exactly Cirque du Soleil’s talent for taking something you think you’ve seen before and pushing it that bit further — acrobatic tumbling on stilts, anyone? The Wheel of Death, performed by the fearless duo of Jimmy Ibarra and Ronald Solis, was an astonishing piece that I’m sure many of the audience watched through their fingers or couldn’t bear to look at all. 

The whole show is wonderfully staged by artistic director Terri Baker, with beautifully designed costumes and make-up that take inspiration from African and Hindu art. A fine band, plus singers Vedra Chandler and Marie-Pier Guilbault, under the direction of James Lutz provide superb backing with music also drawn from a number of influences — Hollywood, 70's pop and India. 

There’s no doubt that Cirque du Soleil’s international cast of performers are at the top of their game in every department, but sadly too many uninspired and often laboured cameos between the sensational acts drain the show of its soul.

Reviewed by Tony Peters

Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza runs at the Royal Albert Hall until Thursday 19th February 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

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