Montreal’s monolithic entertainment franchise Cirque du Soleil made headlines for the wrong reasons last year when an acrobat died during a show in Las Vegas. A horrific thing to happen, but realistically it’s to the credit of the vast 30-year-old company that this was the first performance fatality in its three-decade history.
The truth is that 99.99 percent of the time Cirque du Soleil’s shows are both hugely impressive and entirely tame, the staggering feats of physicality encased in so much blaring new wave music, twee clothing and naff American humour that it’s impossible to feel that anybody on stage is even remotely imperilled.
Even the time and place of Cirque du Soleil’s shows is predictable – in London they rock up to the Royal Albert Hall like clockwork every January, with one of their many touring extravaganzas.
This year’s is ‘Quidam’, and it’s a distinct improvement on last year’s ‘Kooza’, mostly by dint of being about an hour shorter, with much less fannying around with ‘plot’ and much more focus on the actual acrobats. Who are, of course, amazing: the show’s most astonishing moment comes from the ‘statues’ sequence, where gorgeous performers Yves Decoste and Valentyna Sidenko manipulate each other’s near-nude bodies with superhuman strength and grace, like living incarnations of Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’. And there’s plenty more to take your breath away, from a man taking all sorts of liberties with gravity in a giant hamster wheel to an aerial contortionist who offers perhaps the only genuinely heart-in-mouth moment in the show.
As ever, though, there’s far, far too much portentous new age waffling – if they replaced all the tedious hippy bollocks with a bloke in a top hat who just told you what was going on it would be loads better – but that’s the nature of the beast. ‘Quidam’ is Cirque du Soleil doing what’s expected, and doing it well.
By Andrzej Lukowski