Cirque du Soleil's 'Alegria: In a New Light' review - masters of circus return in 30th anniversary production

Read our four-star review of Cirque du Soleil's Alegria: In a New Light, now in performances at the Royal Albert Hall until 3 March.

Olivia Rook
Olivia Rook

Thirty years after the circus show first premiered, Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria – now subtitled In a New Light – returns to the Royal Albert Hall with its trademark roll call of contortion, acrobatics, flips, and tricks.

At first glance, Anne-Séguin Poirier’s set design looks like something out of Game of Thrones. Gold spikes frame the stage like a crown and an ornate iron throne sits upstage, waiting for a ruler to take their seat. Much like the HBO fantasy series, themes of power, greed, and a desire to rule are prominent in Alegria’s loose plot, which explores a kingdom torn between the old order and a new world after the death of its king.

But no one sees a Cirque show for the plot. They go for the eye-watering tumbles and back-bending acrobatics, and in Jean-Guy Legault’s production, there are some stand-out performances. Opening the first act, the acro poles sequence combines Russian bars and banquine: an acrobatic act with two or more bases and one flyer. It shows the performers landing impossible stunts, including three men standing on each other’s shoulders, with the base balancing on a pole held by the other performers. The precision, strength, and balance in this act is mind-blowing. Later, Yulia Makeeva and Alexey Turchenko shine in an emotive sequence using aerial straps: it is hard to see where his limbs start and hers begin, as their bodies entwine. At points, Makeeva is suspended by only Turchenko’s neck or his feet. It’s circus at its best: when the stunt seems risky but the performers look completely in control.

You can feel every contour of Daria Kalinina and Halina Starevich’s balancing and contortion act, their costumes clinging like a second skin, as their bodies ripple and curve in perfect synchronicity. There is also an inspired moment of immersive theatre when the audience is drawn into the action during a snowstorm, which tears its way through the cavernous Royal Albert Hall thanks to confetti and strong wind machines.

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With the pressure to make every stunt more demanding than the last, it is inevitable that some of the acts don’t deliver the same level of impact. The powerful drum set and pungent smell of petrol fumes pave the way for Falaniko Solomona Penesa’s fire knife dance to be one of the most engaging parts of the show. The moment he holds the flames to the balls of his feet is, undeniably, impressive, but the act never really reaches a climax. The same can be said of the synchronised trapeze duo Nicolai Kuntz and Roxane Semiankiv, who fail to share the chemistry created by Makeeva and Turchenko.

Pablo Bermejo and Pablo Gomis Lopez as the two bumbling Clowns show off their vocal range, emitting a number of strange squawks, yelps, shrieks, and cackles. Their comedic timing is perfect and they help to drive the action on stage while the performers prepare for their next act. Yet, this sometimes slows down the pace of the show, with too much emphasis on clowning, and not enough on the big tricks.

These are minor criticisms, however, in another accomplished production from the masters of circus.

Book Alegria tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: performers in Alegria. (Photo courtesy of production)

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