Writer and director: Michel Laprise
Creative director: Chantal Tremblay
High-flying. Death-defying. Jaw dropping. The clichés abound when describing the work of Cirque du Soleil, the French-Canadian entertainment group that was founded in 1984. This “circus of the sun” resumes its regular Winter visits to London with the European premiere of the new show, Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities.
The Royal Albert Hall is celebrating its 150th Birthday and it seems likely that many of the basic stunts seen in this show pre-date it. However, Cirque du Soleil is not about the basics, it is about presentation and packaging. As expected, the show is a visual extravaganza that revels in the enormous space (most specifically the height) made available. The show and the venue are matched perfectly to each other.
In Kurios… the flimsy premise is that a seeker opens their large curio cupboard to release the world’s hidden marvels and bring them to vibrant life. The curiosities that emerge stretch our imaginations to the limits, as directors Michel Laprise and Chantal Tremblay fill the stage and above it with dazzling colour and non-stop action. Original music complements the surreal images and the whole spectacle is seasoned with generous sprinklings of visual wit
So send in the clowns, the jugglers, the acrobats, the trapeze artists, the high wire walkers, the brave and the foolish. The invitation is to sit back in amazement, but don’t try any of it at home. Even PT Barnum might have conceded that this is the greatest show were it not for the absence of elephants, tigers, etc, none of which would be acceptable to modern audiences. Compensation is offered in an invisible circus comedy sequence, during which the deafening roar of an unseen lion echoes around the Hall.
On arrival, the audience is greeted by Stéphane Roy’s labyrinthine set and even given the opportunity to walk through it. There are enough zany, garish costumes, designed by Philippe Guillotel, to inspire several series of The Masked Singer. Performers are seen clambering up a tree of precariously balanced chairs towards the old building’s dome, falling as if from the sky and swinging out above the heads of the gaping audience. Arms and legs are in positions that they really have no right to be as precisely timed acrobatic choreography provides thrills galore.
The show has its climaxes, soaring (literally and otherwise) to the heights and is seldom grounded. Served up withe customary panache. Kurios… may not have many surprises, but it is hard to think of any disappointments.
Runs until 5 March 2023