'Cirque du Soleil - Kurios' review — the power of humanity comes alive in the Victorian steampunk spectacular

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

As the clock strikes 11:11 on the Kurios set, a Seeker closes their eyes. Immediately, they’re thrust into a make-believe world with never-ending possibilities. In this cabinet of curiosities, acts defy human boundaries and ask what we can achieve when we let our futures guide us. For Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios, the future is now, and after the pandemic, it’s brighter than ever.

The contemporary producer celebrate their 25th anniversary in London with the European premiere of Kurios, a steampunk-laden celebration of Victorian engineering where the laws of physics are pushed to their limits. 49 artists from 17 different countries make up the company, including 3’3” Rima Hadchiti, one of the ten smallest people in the world. Together, this global circus conglomerate proves how humans are strongest when unified.

“I was fascinated by the power of optimism and how it just makes people happy,” said Kurios creator Michel Laprise. By the time you leave the Royal Albert Hall, you'll be lifted (emotionally, although physically too if you're invited to walk the bridge before the show begins) to new heights.

Sure, the wafer-thin plot of a Seeker who runs away with their childlike innocence unfolds into nothingness. Raphaël Beau's electric jazzy melodies, while pleasant to listen to, blend into one and often veer into schmaltzy territory. But, if like the vast majority of Cirque audiences, you’re there for the acts, then get ready for the theatrical equivalent of a white-knuckle ride.

While the first act takes a while to crank into action, it’s the second half that packs the punches; Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui choreographs an out-of-this-world acro-net trampoline act that sends its performers into the stratosphere to leave your stomach in knots. There’s even an unmistakable nod to Stranger Things too, as an upside down act sees two realities existing at one time and eventually merge together. When we make a whole, human power knows no bounds.

13 isn’t an unlucky number in this show either, as a baker’s dozen Banquine zoom through the air in feats of human pyramid mastery. There’s a simplistic tenderness in the quieter moments too: a charming mime artist leads an invisible circus to test our imagination, and a theatre of hands projected onto a hot air balloon had audiences in the clouds.

Approaching its 40th anniversary next year, by now it's no surprise that Cirque du Soleil is a well-oiled machine. Kurios continues the circus mastery, as director Chantal Tremblay weds the ethereal and the earthly to create an all-encompassing fictional world. To adapt a line from Alice in Wonderland, this show leaves its audiences Kurios-er and Kurios-er.

Cirque du Soleil - Kurios is at the Royal Albert Hall through 5 March. Book Cirque du Soleil - Kurios tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil - Kurios (Photo courtesy of production)

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