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Review: Cirque du Soleil – KOOZA (Royal Albert Hall)

Cirque du Soleil has been a staple of the West End for many years, visiting the Royal Albert Hall with a new version every year. This time around it’s the turn of KOOZA. First performed in 2007, it then made its way around North American and Japan, playing to over four million people in the process. Now, the classiest circus in the world heads to London before embarking on a European tour. With the promise of an act in the show entitled ‘Wheel of Death’, we just knew we had to be there to see what all the fuss was about.

I’ve never been a fan of the circus. The treatment of the animals worries me, the stunts make me lose my breath and if a clown comes anywhere near me I’m halfway up the M5 before they’ve even got their custard pie out. So it was with a lot of trepidation that I headed to Cirque du Soleil. But, the traditional big top was a world away from what I witnessed here.

From the very start I knew I was going to be in for a fun evening. First we’re introduced to ‘Pickpocket’. This pantaloon-wearing thief, masquerading as a balloon artist, intertwines amongst the audience as they take their seats, whilst my favourite – the ‘mum’ – makes her way around the auditorium to show everybody a picture of her son ‘Davey’ in the programme. Even stopping to clamber onto the stage and take a picture of herself, which made me want to be her new best friend. The entertainment began immediately, and boy it didn’t stop.


Think you’re flexible? This trio puts my bendy legs to shame.

The usual circus acts are all here – the trapeze, the high wire and the unicycle – but they are carried out with such grace, class and style it’s hard not have your mouth open in awe. Our hero, a young character called ‘Innocent’, opens up a mysterious box to reveal the ‘Trickster’ who immediately transports us to another world. A place of wonder and imagination, of beauty and fear, but the best part was that I hadn’t even left my seat. The Royal Albert Hall has so much atmosphere and magic, you could hear the audience soaking up every last drop. Gasps and screams of ‘Bloody hell!’ – from the gentlemen seated next to me – echoed around when any of the cast attempted something dangerous, which made it clear to me I wasn’t the only one completely captivated. A trio of female contortionists put my forward rolls completely to shame, whilst a man stood atop a row of stacked chairs that must have left the nearest Ikea stocks virtually depleted.  There wasn’t a moment of rest as confetti was buffeted around our heads to the beautiful sounds of two glorious singers and an orchestra, who provide a constant mysterious soundtrack to the action. With hints of traditional Indian music, and the odd tribute to 1940s and 50s Hollywood, the tunes add another layer to the ever intriguing story.

The element of danger adds a delicious shot of adrenaline too. After all, who doesn’t love the potential for the high wire artist to end up being scraped off the stage? Oh, and the ‘Wheel of Death’ is worth the waiting for. It more than makes up for its name – just have a stiff drink ready for afterwards. What’s unique about this show, is that the mix of tricks is balanced perfectly with injections of humour from the clowns and their bumbling master, ‘The King’. The mood constantly changes; one minute you’re covering your eyes whilst your heart pounds, and the next you’re guffawing like a hyena. There’s even a touch of sadness thrown in for good measure, all completely unexpected, but all thoroughly welcomed.

I can see why audiences of all ages have been enthralled by Cirque du Soleil over the years. There’s nothing else like it. The perfect evening of escapism mixed with adventure. Just don’t sit near the front if you don’t like audience participation. You’ve been warned…

Beg, borrow, or ask the Pickpocket to steal you a ticket. You’ll never go to a normal circus again.

Cirque du Soleil – KOOZA is running at The Royal Albert Hall until Thursday 14 February 2013, before continuing its tour throughout Europe. Tickets start at £20.00.

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