Out Of This World – Cirque Du Soleil
The mission of the contemporary circus Cirque du Soleil is to stimulate its audience’s imagination, emotions and senses – and it’s fair to say that its latest production does just that. To celebrate its 20th anniversary at the Royal Albert Hall, the French-Canadian company is performing Amaluna. While the world premiere was in Montreal, Canada, in April 2012, this is the first time the show has been performed in the UK.
Amaluna is a fusion of ama – which means ‘mother’ in many languages – and luna, or moon. It’s also the name of the magical island where the show’s story unfolds. Inspired by Greek mythology, Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Mozart’s fairytale opera The Magic Flute, Amaluna is set on a mysterious island governed by a goddess named Prospera. To guide a boat of young men to the island, Prospera conjures up a storm. Her cunning plan works, and one of the men falls for her daughter, Miranda.
But can their love survive being put to the test by a jealous rival? The story is brought alive by a 46-strong cast that includes an all-female eight-piece band, a professional stilt walker, a fire eater, a trampolinist and a stunt man.
Behind The Scenes
If you think that when you’ve seen one Cirque du Soleil show, you’ve seen them all, then you’re very much mistaken. As well as jugglers, silk climbers and trapeze artists flying over the audience, this time round you can expect a teeterboard routine, a balancing act, ‘lizards’ jumping through hoops and performers flipping each other like pancakes – using just their feet.
The show is directed by Diane Paulus, who won a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for Pippin in 2013, although this is Paulus’ first collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. But if Paulus is the brains behind the show, then director of creation Fernand Rainville is the brawn, as he oversees the logistics and brings Paulus’ vision to life. Artistic director Rachel Lancaster, meanwhile, is touring with the cast to ensure it maintains its artistic integrity as envisioned by Paulus.
Lancaster says: ‘Many surprises come from working in a big top – I even saw a stray cat take part in a performance!
‘As a whole, the best artistic ideas are 50 per cent planning and 50 per cent surprises. I am lucky to work with exceptional creative talent and an incredible technical team who can bring anything to life. However, it’s only when you try out an idea that it usually gives birth to a better version.’
Still, as Amaluna is Cirque du Soleil’s 33rd production, how does the team keep it fresh? Lancaster says: ‘Amaluna has a number of unique acts. There’s a 5ft 5in water bowl used for a hand-balancing and contortion routine, an all-female group strap act, women’s uneven bars and an all-female band. All of our characters are multi-disciplinary, too.’
Setting The Scene
While watching the impossible is the highlight of the show, Cirque du Soleil wouldn’t be what it is without music, lighting and a grand set. Amaluna’s raw, edgy guitar tunes composed by Bob & Bill – also known as Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard – are accompanied by lighting that casts shadows resembling a canopy of trees on to the ceiling.
A dramatic set that looks like a bamboo forest includes a revolving carousel, so you can see each act from every angle. A peacock feather decoration dominates the centre of the stage, chosen because legend has it that the ‘eyes’ in the tail are protective, watching over women – reflecting the theme of femininity that runs through the plot.
Lancaster adds: ‘My favourite scene is Transition into Cerceau, when we go from a forest to a cave with a pool, as it reminds me of Mexico’s cenotes, or sinkholes. It transforms the space, achieved mainly by our wonderful lighting conceptor.’
As for the costumes, 130 outfits blend East with West, ancient with modern and fantasy with reality – you might notice references to the Orient, Scandinavia and the UK’s Elizabethan period, along with some half-human, half-animal, lizard, peacock and fairy characters. Intrigued? Then bag a ticket now – you’ll be over the moon you did. From 16 Jan. Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2A. 020 7589 8212. cirquedusoleil.com
Join The Circus!
Circus: Whoever said that the circus was just for kids has never been to Covent Garden’s Circus. It’s a feast for both your tastebuds and your eyes: enjoy pan-Asian food while watching fire eaters, ballerinas and cabaret artists. Sit at the catwalk-style table, where dancers perform inches above your head. 27-29 Endell St, WC2H 9BA
Dark Circus: Using paper, ink and sand, the duo Stereoptik are visual artists who bring silhouettes to life. The story follows a ringmaster who invites a dreary city to its circus tent. Barbican, Silk St, EC2Y 8DS
La Soirée: With so many amazing shows taking place in the capital every night, picking just one to see is tricky. But you won’t be disappointedif you choose this Olivier Award-winning cabaret show. La Soirée is packed with singers, dancers, jugglers, burlesque artists, acrobats and magicians. The action takes place in the atmospheric 1920s Spiegeltent on the South Bank, where the audience sits in-the-round, circus-style. They are close enough to see the performers’ sweat – and the experience is all the more thrilling for it. Speigeltent, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX