Cirque du Soleil: Luzia Royal Albert Hall ****
- Credit: Matt Beard
The Canadian contemporary circus spectacular returns to London after a two year hiatus with a life-affirming technically brilliant show that's one of their best.
Channelling the sights and sounds of Mexico, they've jettisoned the usual high concept narrative for a simple story of a man who falls from a plane into a 'waking dreamworld' of wonderful waterfalls, cavorting cacti, and brilliantly plumed birds. And it turns out that a blast of Mariachi horns and swirl of sunny colours is just the boost that Covid-weary Londoners needed this winter.
From the moment the clown figure breaks his fall with a tiny umbrella, we are off at a gallop with a giant horse puppet and glorious butterfly along a travellator. It segues into a heart-racing hoop diving routine on the moving beltway, then a balletically graceful hand balancing act before the heady whirl of two cyr wheel and a trapeze artist spinning through a giant waterfall.
Raining down from the height of the Albert Hall it later features in a comic clowning scene, and takes a star turn as the droplets descend in star and flower patterns to uplifting live music.
The cirque loves a spot of surrealism, and the odd giant cockroach or puppet jaguar blends neatly with eye popping feats of balancing and body bending. Director Daniele Finzi Pasca has a good eye for a visual showstopper, as when an atmospheric parade of candles precedes a watch-through-your-hands pretzel-bending contortionist.
Elsewhere a juggler, hands moving in a blur, nails a seven club trick, a thrillingly powerful aerial strap artist dips into a central pool before ascending high above our heads in a whirling centrifuge, and in a nod to Mexico's love of soccer two football freestylers blend street dance and ball balancing, taking the keepy uppy to the next level.
Exhilarating high stakes acrobatics featuring two giant swings rounds off the evening, but I loved Finzi Pasca's final tableau as assorted characters gather for a joyfully uplifting meal. Travel, food, music, communal performance; it reminds us what we've missed all these months.
Luzia runs until February 27.