Writer and Director: Daniele Finzi Pasca
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Taking up their annual residency in the Royal Albert Hall, is Cirque du Soleil with their new Mexican-themed show Luzia. The production is as spectacular as always with tumblers, and musicians filling every inch of the revolving stage, but in the end style outdoes substance meaning that despite the dramatic routines of the performers there’s also a sense of emptiness to this show.
Originating in the early 1980s, Cirque du Soleil is now big business, with countless productions being held all over the world at the same time. Each show is sleek, and meticulously choreographed, and the sets are as awe-inspiring as the routines. But because everything is so perfect, and so finely rehearsed, the productions also lack danger and heart.
Luzia, receiving its European premiere, starts well with a woman with huge butterfly wings running on a giant travelator. She is soon joined by a silver horse, which canters behind her. It’s an impressive beginning, and throughout the evening there are many moments like this, the best, perhaps, being when images of jungle flora and fauna are projected on a cascade of (real) water that falls upon the middle of the stage. With scenes like this, the impact of the acrobatics is diluted in some cases.
Dressed as hummingbirds, performers jump through hoops and later two women revolve in cyr wheels while above them another woman swings on a trapeze through the waterfall. But in each routine, there is too much going on. Other performers come onto stage, some dressed as cacti, some dressed in sequin frocks, and their antics distract from the main event. A football routine by Abou Travoré and Laura Biondo is ruined by the frolics of the performers in the background tossing balls to each other. Likewise, the crazy contortions of Aleksei Goloborodko are upstaged by people coming down to place candles on the stage, and then, unforgivably, as the contortionist reaches his climax, to come and remove these candles.
You need to have real focus not to be diverted by all the goings-on behind the performers to really appreciate this show. And just as diverting are the audience members who feel compelled to use their mobile phones to film the performers, despite a recorded request at the start of each half to turn off phones. As no ushers seemed to police this rule on press night, more and more phones came out as the show progressed.
The performers are clearly talented but the busy stage and the constant music means that there is little tension, and the only heart-stopping moments come at the end with tumblers jumping from one swing to another. This act proves to be the most exciting, if you can only ignore the other performers feasting at long tables behind the acrobats. It seems a shame that each act cannot have the stage to themselves.
But Cirque du Soleil is about spectacle and you certainly get that, and you certainly get what you pay for, with ticket prices for the front starting at around £100. There are some great moments in Luzia, but if you are easily distracted perhaps this is not the circus for you.
Runs until 1 March 2020