Theatre review: Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza at the Royal Albert Hall

11:50 11 January 2013

The contortionists. Picture: John Zimmerman

The contortionists. Picture: John Zimmerman

Archant

The Canadian circus phenomenon’s new show is full of gasp-inducing feats

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL

Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7

Four stars

According to my shoddy sub-GCSE level French, the name of this Canadian phenomenon translates as ‘circus of the sun’.

I won’t win any prizes for working that one out, nor for noting it’s a fitting title because the show really does dazzle.

There’s some stunning artistry on display in this latest tour, Kooza (no idea what that means): wondrous feats of acrobatics, athleticism and sheer bendiness of body that often beggar belief.

The stand-out sections included a man sitting on a chair, balanced atop a pole, held up by two men, each sitting on a bicycle balanced on a tightrope, close to the roof of the Royal Albert Hall.

While that was exciting, it was the so-called ‘wheel of death’ that really left me breathless. Like a cross between a giant pair of handcuffs and two massive hamster balls, the whole device spinning wildly as two performers flip around inside and out.

Now and again they appeared to stumble, looking as if they were millimetres from being flung into the audience from height, which ramped up the tension and had my girlfriend hiding behind her hands.

The contortionists also deserve a special mention, their flexibility both awe-inspiring and at times faintly disturbing, especially a burst of insect-like dancing from one of the bendy trio.

The evening featured all the familiar circus ingredients from clowns, who were genuinely entertaining, to unicycles and that thing where they balance on stacks of chairs.

It also had a few polished but fairly superfluous interludes of music and dance – and some truly horrendous costumes.

It was enjoyable throughout, with the occasional gasp-inducing highlight that tugged me to the edge of my seat without my even realising. Until February 14.

Tom Marshall

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