Cirque du Soleil, Royal Albert Hall, London

3.00

 

Cirque du Soleil offers a bewildering mix of the bland and the flat-out terrifying. As so often with this company, the clowning and the framing devices are all bombast. The acrobatic acts, when at last we get to them, are so scarily brave that I wanted to watch the aerialists and the wheel of death through my fingers.

Founded in 1982, this French Canadian troupe has turned circus into an international brand. Across many shows, the exaggerated makeup and costume design give Cirque du Soleil a clear trademark, blurring the individual identity of its skilled performers. The company go on about celebrating wonder and freedom, but only within the narrow limits of corporate-sponsored whimsy.

The 2007 show Kooza, directed by David Shiner, shows Cirque’s split personality at its most divided. The central figure is a sentimental Innocent, who toddles through the world of the circus without a trace of spontaneity or warmth. Clowning is one of the main themes of Kooza, which means more dreary slapstick, more gurning, more people taken out of the audience than ever before. It makes this a very long show: almost three hours, half of which could be cut.

The other half is superhuman. Sometimes the Cirque du Soleil branding makes even its acrobats anonymous. This time, the rawness of human effort shines through. Solo trapeze artist Marion Verd may be weighed down with 1980s makeup and a pompadour mullet hairdo, but there’s nothing sugary about the way she flips off the bar, twists and falls before brilliantly catching herself.

A high wire team prance and play leapfrog across two tightropes. At this performance, the first time one jumps over his colleague, he slipped off the wire, grabbing hold just in time. After a moment to recover – a fellow acrobat patted his shoulder consolingly – he went back and did it again, flawlessly. Then the whole team went on to still more dramatic stunts: skipping ropes, bicycles, a pyramid on a bicycle on a wire.

The prize for insane bravery goes to Jimmy Ibarra and Ronald Solis, who perform on the aptly-named Wheel of Death. Two giant hamster wheels are held at the end of a turning bar; as the man walks inside the wheel, he makes the whole device circle. Ibarra and Solis start by running inside their wheels. Then they run on the outside, keeping their balance on a spinning wheel that is itself swung through space.

Gravity seems to be sitting in wait for them, ready to pounce. The audience’s gasps turn to actual screams when Ibarra and Solis start to jump and dive. I screamed, too: no amount of waffle about wonder could take the edge off that.

Until 14 February. Box office 0845 401 5034

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
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.

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world