Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil (Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

Everything you need to know about Cirque du Soleil in London

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

Could you soar through the air? Can you walk on your hands? Contort your body? Expect the unexpected in Cirque du Soleil shows, where performers defy what is seemingly possible to entertain crowds. For over 30 years, Cirque du Soleil has evolved with time to present world-leading, contemporary circus shows. While many of their shows tour the world, London audiences can see Cirque du Soleil every year, as the company have an annual season at the Royal Albert Hall.

Cirque du Soleil shows in London are a must-see for any theatregoer. Shows change each year too, so you can expect something different every time. Here's our complete guide to Cirque du Soleil in London, and information on the latest Cirque du Soleil show in London.

What is Cirque du Soleil?

Cirque du Soleil are the largest global contemporary circus producer, showcasing circus arts, stunts, and dance. Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian-based company, however Cirque shows are staged around worldwide, entertaining millions of people every year.

When were Cirque du Soleil formed?

Cirque du Soleil officially formed in 1984. However, it took years of training, being street performers, and searching for funding in order to stage a show under the Cirque du Soleil moniker.

Professional firebreather Guy Lalibert organised a summer fair in Quebec in 1979 to showcase variety acts. As part of promoting the event, fellow producer Gilles Ste-Croix walked 56 miles on stilts. Following this, public interest in circus shows across Canada grew, until eventually Lalibert, Ste-Croix and fellow organiser Daniel Gauthier were awarded a financial grant. With this grant, the trio were expected to stage a show based on Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada.

Ultimately, this went on to become Cirque's first show, Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil. 20 street performers took part in Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil, premiering on 16 June 1984.

Kurios - 750 - LT

How many Cirque du Soleil shows are playing right now?

Currently, there are 19 Cirque du Soleil shows being performed around the world. We've listed all the shows below, as well as their location.

United Kingdom Cirque du Soleil shows

Corteo Kurios

United States Cirque du Soleil shows

Beatles - Love
Drawn to Life
Mad Apple
Michael Jackson - One

Touring Cirque du Soleil shows

'Twas the Night Before

When did Cirque du Soleil first perform in London?

Cirque du Soleil first performed in London in 1996 at the Royal Albert Hall. In fact, Cirque du Soleil in London marked the company's European premiere. Cirque du Soleil's first London show was Saltimbanco, and it was such a hit with audiences that it returned in 1997 and 2003.

Since 2003, Cirque du Soleil have performed annually at the Royal Albert Hall. To date, Cirque have performed over 1,000 times in the London venue. Even though the Royal Albert Hall is a large performance space, the auditorium can be adapted to accommodate for all stunts, making it the ideal location for such a spectacle!

Which Cirque du Soleil shows have been performed in London?

Many Cirque du Soleil shows have been staged in London. We've listed all the shows that took place over the years at the Royal Albert Hall.

1996: Saltimbanco
1997: Saltimbanco
1998: Alegria
1999: Alegria
2003: Saltimbanco
2004: Dralion
2005: Dralion
2006: Alegria
2007: Alegria
2008: Varekai
2009: Quidam
2010: Varekai
2011: Totem
2012: Totem
2013: Kooza
2014: Quidam
2015: Kooza
2016: Amaluna
2017: Amaluna
2018: Totem
2019: Ovo
2020: Luzia
2022: Luzia
2023: Kurios

Kurios - 750 - LT

What are reviews like for Cirque du Soleil?

Cirque du Soleil has been praised by critics for its ability to blend theatre magic with intricate choreography. When Luzia was last at the Royal Albert Hall in 2020, our London Theatre critic said: "Luzia feels like a return to the revolutionary combination of form and content that finds them at their creative best, folding a series of ever-dazzling circus acts into the fabric of a show that is as cohesive as it is exhilarating."

Cirque du Soleil shows pack in plenty of indescribable stunts. In the 2018 show, Ovo, our London Theatre critic said: "trapeze artists fly high over the stage, unaided by wires or supports of any kind, as they are thrown from one side of it to the other. It's probably the closest to flying human beings will ever achieve. The precision is amazing."

Then in 2019, our London Theatre critic said Totem was: "totemic of this brand at its fantastic best. [It's] stunningly lit and underscored by a live musical soundtrack that is transmitted in surround sound, appearing from different areas of the arena. This show totally delivers on its promise to thrill audiences anew." So if you're a seeing a Cirque du Soleil show at the Royal Albert Hall, you can guarantee excitement, wonder, and unbelievable moments all wrapped up into one.

Fun facts about Cirque du Soleil

  • The name Cirque du Soleil translates from French to mean circus of the sun. With fiery shows and hot tricks, they definitely are the Circus of the Sun.
  • In most West End shows, understudies, swings, and alternates are part of a show's cast. This means that if a cast member is ill, someone else can step into their position. Due to the complex routines Cirque du Soleil acts learn, touring shows often have no understudies. If someone cannot perform, the whole show is reworked to accommodate their absence.
  • Have you seen a Cirque du Soleil show before? You're not alone. Over 180 million people have seen a Cirque du Soleil show since 1984.
  • Many Olympians have joined Cirque du Soleil. 2000 Great Britain Olympics athlete Lee Brearley switched from the trampoline to flipping as a Cirque artist. 2008 United States Olympic athlete Christina Jones moved from her office job to becoming a Cirque-synchronised swimmer.

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

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