Cirque de Soleil - Quidam, review: 'Obscure scenes performed on an epic scale'

4.00

Royal Albert Hall, London

International circus troupe Cirque du Soleil opens its performance of Quidam with an announcement of thanks to its sponsors, including an obscure Japanese car company and a photocopying firm, whose brand names are also projected on the walls.

What a way to kill the magic. It’s hard to switch off from the fact that Cirque du Soleil is by no means a quaint little performing troupe. Founded in 1984, it now has over 5,000 employees worldwide and rakes in around £486 million a year. Those are big numbers, and here’s another one; one ticket costs £95 (plus a £4 ‘convenience fee’ plus £2 to actually receive the ticket, by email).

Of course, with such a well-funded, big venue production comes a certain slickness that you won’t get from your average circus. The scale is epic, the performers are precise and hugely talented and, of course, there’s a unique selling point: Cirque du Soleil’s writer and director, Franco Dragone, weaves surreal narratives into his productions so they’re a world away from cheery acrobatics. There are no animals, just gorgeous superhumans who risk death (Cirque had it’s first ever fatality last summer for the first time in 30 years) and defy gravity, just to make us gasp. But is it worth the ticket price? It would be, if there wasn’t so much filler.

The current show, Quidam, is about a girl who goes down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass and lands up in a Magritte painting. In other words it’s incomprehensible. Between bouts of amazing circus skills, including German wheel, where a man becomes the spoke on a giant wheel and spins around the stage, silk dancers, thrilling hand balancing, aerial hoops and very strong people who throw tiny people miles in the air, there are odd, obscure scenes tacking the alleged storyline together.

A girl dressed as a rabbit cries a bit, a man with wooden aeroplane wings stitched to his suit skips about, a giant man with no head solemnly parades around holding an umbrella.  Presumably these interludes are necessary to let the acrobats take a breather and when you do get to see the skills it’s astounding.

Yves Decoste and Valentina Sidenko perform something called the ‘Statue’ which is so tense the burly man in the row in front was inspired to exclaim in a revered whisper: “fucking hell.” They are beautiful and impossible — they emerge like a marble-white Adam and Eve from a nest of interwoven people, chiselled and perfect. Then almost imperceptibly, they balance in seemingly gravity-defying poses.

At one point he stands with his arms out while she mirrors him, upside-down with her head resting on his shoulder blades; a living, harmonious crucifix. And then, just when you can’t stand the tension any more, some bloke in a tutu starts piruetting in the background.

There’s a bit of clowning in the style of mime of the moment The Boy With Tape On His Face, where audience members are forced to act out tempestuous trysts. It’s funny but doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the dark nightmarish vibe, although it’s entertaining in its own right.

But, for £100 a seat, I’d want more of the star acrobats and less time spent on sideshows.

Jan 4 - Feb 16; 0845 401 5034

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003