Cirque du Soleil: Kooza
Until Sun Feb 10 2013
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Wed Jan 9 2013
Monolithic Canadian circus institution Cirque du Soleil's latest UK premiere is billed as an attempt to get back to its roots, to reconnect with the clowning, acrobatics and 'profound craziness' that informed its formative years in '80s Quebec.
It perhaps goes without saying that the biggest clown is anybody who swallows this line: taking place in the rarefied vastness of the Royal Albert Hall, with a top ticket price of £90, a cast of about a gazillion and a mind-boggling three-hour running time, 'Kooza' keeps it roughly as real as George Osborne in a pasty shop.
That accepted, there's a comparative lack of new age waffle in David Shiner's production, which feels less like being trapped in an Enya video than other Cirque shows. And as a series of stunt setpieces it's pretty thrilling: I have no idea how the wheel of death – in which two burly gentlemen dressed as devils run, jump and climb around two enormous circular, revolving treadmills suspended from the ceiling – is in any way legal, but it's dizzying, heart in mouth stuff: as is the double high wire, the teeterboard, and the lady dancing all over a bloke on a unicycle.
Unfortunately when the stunts aren't happening, the clowning is, and it's here that 'Kooza' falls flat on its face (and not in a 'ha ha' way). With its thin, twee narrative, the elaborately choreographed spectacle is about as anarchic as an episode of 'Heartbeat'. The performers aren't lacking in skill, but the slickly frattish humour of the three chief clowns is wearisome, and – especially off the back of pantomime season – the audience interaction feels very North American and staid.
Take the clowns out, and you'd have two hours of pretty mindblowing old-school acrobatics. As 'Kooza' stands, you've got another bloated, overconceptualised Cirque du Soleil offering. The thrills are still there, but you've got to work to get to them.