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Review: Quidam by Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall

10th January 2014

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Cirque du Soleil is a global phenomenon. Celebrating 30 years of tumbles and triumphs this year - and more than 10 million ticket sales - the latest show to grace the Royal Albert Hall is Quidam, a dark and surreal performance that seems to take its cue from Alice in Wonderland.

Loosely set around the story of a Zoe, a young girl who ignored by her parents enters a whimsical fantasy world, Quidam is one of the darker Cirque stories, featuring a headless man, a freaky rabbit and a cast of faceless, anonymous drones who follow the main characters and performers around.

The storyline is pretty much incomprehensible, seeming to follow Zoe’s trip through her own fantasy world as she tries to reconnect with her parents, but really only forms the basis for introducing the different acts throughout the show – and on this Quidam really delivers.

From the introductory German Wheel, where an acrobat spins around the stage in a giant hamster wheel to the speed and agility of the rope skippers, Quidam builds in intensity throughout.

The first act’s best moment is provided by an aerial contortionist, who performs a series of death-defying drops supported only by a column of silk fabric wrapped around her body. The piece builds to an unsettling climax, as she appears to hang herself before being carried off stage solemnly by the drones.

However, the biggest “wow” moments come in the second act, particularly in the “statue” act, the show’s best moment. Two performers – one male, one female – emerge from the floor and perform a series of sculpted acrobatic poses in slow motion. Looking like a terrifying vision of apocalyptic human perfection, their gravity-defying poses (including an inverted cross, where the female performer balances upside down with her head between the standing male’s shoulder blades) draw genuine gasps of disbelief from the audience.  The eeriness of the performance is set off by the tense music from the onstage band.

The show’s acrobatic finale is also impressive, as the performers throw each other around in a series of increasingly scary twists and tumbles. Two moment’s stand out – the awesome balance when an acrobat performs a handstand at the top of three – yes, three – performers each stood on each other shoulders, and when two female acrobats are tossed simultaneously across the floor and land with perfect handstands.

Quidam isn’t just about the acrobatics though – there are some comic moments provided by its array of interlude performers, and a nice audience participation moment involving a sleazy film director. However, it’s the aerial gymnastics and feats of strength that the audience have come to see, and the show delivers on that.

One word of warning – Cirque du Soleil is a global brand and the prices reflect this. The cheap seats still cost £25 and many of these have restricted views. We heard more than one complaint from those straining to see the floor performances. However, push out on price a little and this is one show that’s worth the money.

Quidam by Cirque du Soleil is playing at the Royal Albert Hall until Feb 16th. You can buy tickets here.

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