The Cirque is in town! And it’s a circus with a mission “to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world.”
Established in Quebec in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has dazzled and amazed almost 100 million people in 300 cities across five continents. It has visited Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham previously with their shows Delirium in 2007/08, Quidam in 2009 and Saltimbanco in 2010, winning prestigious awards such as the Emmy, Drama Desk, Bambi, ACE, Gémaux, Félix and the Rose d’Or de Montreux.
This is the UK premiere of their spectacle Alegría that premiered in Montreal in 1994 and will be seen this year by 15 million people. Alegría is Spanish for happiness, joy and jubilation and features an international cast of 55 performers and musicians from 17 countries - a testament to their ethos of inclusion but sadly too many to name individually here.
As the SECC arena gradually fills up with the good folk of Glasgow out for a night’s entertainment, this audience is treated to some gentle and discreet pre-show clowning.
The set creates a magical world with its kaleidoscope of dappled autumn colours on the sloping floor, its deep perspective and fiery torches. A trapeze and empty mirror frame hang with suitable allure.
Fleur, the gloriously méchant hunchback ringmaster, haunts the stage with his elegant, obsequious steps giving silent orchestration - and the show begins!
The six piece band of pompadoured strolling players play tunes in a range of styles throughout, their mainly acoustic instruments providing a unique atmosphere as does the haunting narrator, the lovely White Singer and her alter ego, the Black Singer. Even the house rules are delivered in a theatrical way by the kindly, bowler-hatted character, Tamir.
All 55 performers appear in gorgeously intricate costumes that have been made in Montreal by Cirque du Soleil artisans.
The story is an interweaving of the old order, represented by the characters the Nostalgic Old Birds who look like escapees from the pages of a Dr Seuss book, and the new order of the young and beautiful blue feathered nymphs and angels, symbolic, perhaps of Cirque du Soleil’s idea of constant reinvention.
The audience is treated to the breath-taking perfection of phenomenally synchronized performances of strength and skill. This ranges from the balletic elegance of the Synchronised Trapeze to the gasp inducing shapes made by the Hand Balancing act and the dangerous knife-handling in the elemental Fire Knife Dance.
Manipulation reveals legs as bendy as the whirl of the hoop that looks like a bubble on her foot as it gyrates, while an astonishing character called Flying Man swirls like a dervish on scary stretchy ropes. Meanwhile, a goblin spiv, Cyr Wheel, spins inside a gyrating hoop.
There is synchronised tumbling on a concealed trampoline system; fabulous acrobatics from the Aerial High Bars (pictured above) whose flying and swinging ressembles a human, folding toy; and the Russian Bars, who somersault through the air landing on bars perched on the shoulders of catchers.
And then there's the contortionists - two angels whose lithe bodies take on impossible, almost beyond human shapes, while in contrast a ghostly, one-legged stilt walker stalks the stage.
Something is always happening in more than place and the whole cast stay in character throughout.
The three funny and charming clowns engage with the willing audience and do clever silly versions of the acts. There is a delightful salute by them to the wonderful Slav’s Snow Show, with Slava Polunin himself behind it.
This is an edge-of-the-seat, heart-in-the-mouth, supremely skilled, inventive spectacle delivered with glamorous, stylish swagger and theatricality that tips into utterly beautiful, fantastic and magical madness. I only have 5 stars at my disposal to award, but this is far and away a 10 star show.
Alegría tickets priced at £50 are on sale at www.livenation.co.uk or call 0844 856 0202.
Glasgow – Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (Weds 11th April – Sun 15th April)
Wednesday, 11th April – 8.00pm
Thursday, 12th April – 8.00pm
Friday, 13th April – 8.00pm
Saturday, 14th April – 4.00pm and 8.00pm
Sunday, 15th April – 1.00pm and 5.00pm