Cirque du Soleil's OVO
Opened 7 January 2018, Closed 4 March 2018 at the Royal Albert Hall
Cirque du Soleil in London with their new show OVO this January 2018
OVO, meaning 'egg' in Portuguese, is a headlong rush into a colourful ecosystem teeming with life, where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and look for love in a non-stop riot of energy and movement. When a mysterious egg appears in their midst, the insects are awestruck and intensely curious about this iconic object that represents the enigma and cycles of their lives.
The cast of OVO is comprised of 50 performing artists from 12 countries specializing in many acrobatic acts. One highlight of OVO is the stunning Flying Act in which a group of scarabs soar high above the stage, from both edges to the middle landing on a platform. Please note that due to the nature of the live acts in the show, changes in the acts and cast may occur. Alterations may be made to the programme and acts replaced or removed without prior notice.
OVO - Cirque du Soleil in London opened on 7 January 2018 and closes on 4 March 2018
Cirque du Soleil in London at the Royal Albert Hall - a 23 year partnership
The Royal Albert Hall is the unofficial home of Cirque du Soleil in London. Cirque du Soleil originally played in London during the Summer of 1990 when they presented their show Le Cirque Reinvente in a big top tent in Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank, next to The National Theatre. But it was not for another six years before they returned to London, this time to perform the show Saltimbanco at The Royal Albert Hall in January 1996. They have returned each year since with the exception of 2000 to 2003 when they pitched their huge tent, The Grand Chapiteau, next to Battersea Power Station and staged Quidam for two season.
Cirque du Soleil in London with Amaluna at the Royal Albert Hall
Opened 16 January 2016, Closed 6 March 2016
Returned 12 January 2017, Closed 26 February 2017
Amaluna invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Their queen, Prospera, directs her daughter's coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honours femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance which marks the passing of these insights and values from one generation to the next.
Amaluna is a fusion of the words ama, which refers to 'mother' in many languages, and luna, which means 'moon,' a symbol of femininity that evokes both the mother-daughter relationship and the idea of goddess and protector of the planet.
Created by Fernand Rainville. Directed by Diane Paulus with choreography by Karole Armitage, sets by Scott Pask, costumes by Meredith Caron, lighting by Matthieu Larivee, music by Bob & Bill (AKA Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard) and sound by Jacques Boucher.
When this production opened at London's Royal Albert Hall, Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard highlighted that "it delivers just what fans have come to expect - a technically complex and often dazzling display of acrobatic excellence... While there's a more intelligible narrative than usual, nobody leaves a Cirque show raving about the subtleties of the plot. Instead spectacle is the key, as we witness performers mixing extreme gymnastics and exhibitionism." Kate Maltby in the Times said that this "latest extravaganza at the Royal Albert Hall constructs a narrative loosely based on Shakespeare's The Tempest to anchor its usual blend of omni-tumbling acrobats, breathily amplified massage music and Strictly Come Dancing Spandex... The second half of Amaluna is less gripping, with longer set-pieces and a solo balancing act that seems to go on for ever. Yet the technical expertise - from design to physique - remains impeccable. Enjoy it." Claire Allfree in the Daily Telegraph described that, mainly "the company follows its tried-and-tested formula of drenching everything in pseudo emotion and bombast, this time courtesy of an all-female rock group and a shimmering light display hell-bent on persuading the audience they really are on some enchanted isle. It's far from bad, but it's also far from amazing." Neil Norman in the Daily Express thought that "following last year's triumphant revival of their Kooza show, Cirque du Soleil's latest offering is a step backwards. Perhaps an annual residency at the Royal Albert Hall overstretches their invention but Amaluna rather suggests that they are just going through the motions. Of course the juggernaut Montreal-based enterprise is not without its pleasures. The skills on display are among the best and there are acts defying belief. But there is rather too much here that seems a bit repetitive or old hat even... The clowns are, as always, dreadful." Lyn Gardner in the Guardian explained how "too often the circus seems to be purely incidental, as if director Diane Paulus felt obliged to include it, rather than genuinely wanting to celebrate the skill and power of performers who are either prettified and sexualised or presented as faceless, sexless automatons." Alice Jones in the Independent commented how "it is quite like every other Cirque show - there's an incomprehensible story, some entirely expendable clowns, a lot of weird wigs, Lycra and stagey make-up and, holding the whole thing together, extraordinary feats of human physicality... This is Cirque's 20th year at the Royal Albert Hall and there is a sense that they are trying to do something different. It doesn't always work... Still, the good bits are uniformly, gaspingly spectacular... The clowns are appalling, as usual." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail wrote that audiences "can expect glittering gymnasts performing an array of gravity-defying stunts to the beat of generic world music... it's a largely flawless performance with portentous rock music played by an all-female band of pre-Raphaelite headbangers. Cirque's old tricks do still impress."
Cirque du Soleil in London with Kooza at the Royal Albert Hall
Opened 5 January 2013, Closed 10 February 2013
Returned 6 January 2015, Closed 19 February 2015
Kooza combines the two circus traditions of acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The show highlights the physical demands of human performance in all its splendor and fragility, presented in a colorful mélange that emphasizes bold slapstick humor. Between strength and fragility, laughter and smiles, turmoil and harmony, Kooza explores themes of identity, recognition and power. The show is set in an electrifying and exotic visual world full of surprises, thrills, chills, audacity and total involvement.
The name Kooza is inspired by the Sanskrit word 'koza,' which means 'box,' 'chest' or 'treasure,' and was chosen because one of the underlying concepts of the production is the idea of a 'circus in a box'.
Written and directed by David Shiner with creation direction by Serge Roy, choreography by Clarence Ford, sets by Stéphane Roy, costumes by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt, lighting by Martin Labrecque, music by Jean-François Côté and sound by Jonathan Deans and Leon Rothenberg.
When this production was originally seen here at the Royal Albert Hall in January 2013 Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard described how the audience "watch highly skilled performers do the sort of things that are scarcely possible, and in this respect Kooza is a triumph." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "there are many moments in Kooza of thrilling wonder and delight, and several of the acts are among the most sensational I have seen in more than 20 years of visiting Cirque du Soleil." Lyn Gardner in the Guardian commented that, "Strip away all the bombast and soft-focus window dressing, and you'll find some truly remarkable circus acts on display." Zoe Anderson in the Independent said that the show "offers a bewildering mix of the bland and the flat-out terrifying. As so often with this company, the clowning and the framing devices are all bombast. The acrobatic acts, when at last we get to them, are so scarily brave that I wanted to watch the aerialists and the wheel of death through my fingers." Dominic Maxwell in the Times wrote that "there are moments of amazement in this - but, oh boy, they don't half make you wait for them. The world-conquering French-Canadian circus troupe has crammed an hour of top-notch spectacle into a three-hour show, including interval, organised around 'the spirit of the clown'." Simon Edge in the Daily Express thought that "the design fuses low-tech schooldays imagery - costumes include stripey pyjamas and school blazer and cap - with the glories of India... the acrobatic acts marry the traditional circus skills of wire, trapeze and human towers to the grace of Eastern dance, with occasional bursts of more familiar choreography." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail noted that "the Cirque, which has shows on several continents, is a global brand, like Heinz tomato soup or Hertz car rentals. Too much deviation from the format would offend the marketing department. And so we get the over-slick clowns, no more spontaneous than electric doors at a shopping centre. We get faux-mystic singers wooping and gesticulating like shipwreck victims. You can never make out what they are singing."
Cirque du Soleil in London with Quidam
Opened 14 December 2000, Closed 4 February 2001 at the Grand Chapiteau at Battersea Power Station
Returned 22 November 2001, Closed 6 January 2002 at the Grand Chapiteau at Battersea Power Station
Opened 4 January 2009, Closed 15 February 2009 at the Royal Albert Hall
Returned 4 January 2014, Closed 16 February 2014 at the Royal Albert Hall
Unlike any other Cirque du Soleil show, Quidam does not take spectators to an imaginary realm of fanciful, larger-than-life characters. Rather, it is an examination of our own world - inhabited by real people with real-life concerns. Featuring astonishing acrobatics, awe-inspiring aerial acts, unique lighting, and an elaborate set design. Get ready to discover an acrobatic show where hope and beauty come to life.
Young Zoe is bored. Her parents, distant and apathetic, ignore her. Her life has lost all meaning. Seeking to fill the void of her existence, she slides into an imaginary world - the world of Quidam - where she meets characters who encourage her to free her soul. Quidam, a nameless passer-by, a solitary figure lingering on a street corner, a person rushing past and swallowed by the crowd. It could be anyone, anybody. Someone coming or going at the heart of our anonymous society. A member of the crowd, one of the silent majority. The one who cries out, sings and dreams within us all. This is the 'quidam' whom this show allows to speak.
Created by Gilles Ste-Croix. Directed by Franco Dragone with choreography by Debra Brown, sets by Michel Crete, costumes by Dominique Lemieux, lighting by Luc Lafortune, music by Benoit Jutras and sound by Francois Bergeron.
"It's starting to feel as if the Québécois troupe have been around for ever, plugging away at their mission to whip up as many grindingly fanciful touring extravaganzas as possible. There are inklings of what might have been in this revival of their 1996 show, Quidam. Highs include an astonishing, serenely simple balance and strength act called Statue, performed by a couple who together seem to embody the myth that humans started out as hermaphrodite beings. Lows include the sort of indolent slapstick that makes you want to give the clowns a slap, and a whimsical (read: nonsensical) narrative that sees a lonely girl drawn into a dreamscape in which acrobats scamper like particularly annoying woodland sprites." The Sunday Times
"After exploring the origins of life and the mysteries of the universe, Cirque du Soleil returns to its core values with Quidam, its show from 1996. There's still a big wow-factor in the gravity-defying acts. The tricks are never less than virtuoso... if only the directors could lose the dry ice, bombastic lighting and kooky costumes. Even the soundtrack is as savourless as a skinny Starbucks latte, with its fusion of world music and pan-national wailing. Despite all this, when it comes to glamorous stunts, Cirque du Soleil is still the market leader." The Daily Mail
"Celebrating its 30th year, the Canadian company Cirque du Soleil has made a fortune from gift-wrapping world-class circus skills in highfalutin concepts. As much as these extravaganzas have you going 'ooh' and 'aah' at astounding feats, they also often have you scratching your head, wondering what on earth they're trying to 'say'. That's particularly the case with Quidam, which scales such heights of giddy-making pretension that it made me yearn for the easy-going delights of Billy Smart and the traditional British big top. Quidam means "anonymous passerby" in Latin, which licenses director Franco Dragone to populate the stage with any number of bizarrely dressed performers, serving as balletically inclined interludes to the main events, while the bombastic live score, sourced from multiple genres, blasts forth... I hope Cirque du Soleil will still be around in 30 years' time, but less metaphysical flannel would help its chances a lot." The Daily Telegraph
Cirque du Soleil in London with Totem at the Royal Albert Hall
Opened 5 January 2011, Closed 17 February 2011
Returned 6 January 2012, Closed 16 February 2012
A fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind. On an island evoking the shape of a giant turtle, Totem traces humankind`s incredible journey - from our original amphibian state to our ultimate quest for flight. Along the way, it also explores our dreams and infinite potential, and the ties that bind us both to our collective animal origins and to the species that share the planet with us. Alternating between primitive and modern myths, and peppered with aboriginal stories of creation, Totem echoes and explores the evolutionary process of species, our ongoing search for balance, and the curiosity that propels us ever further, faster, and higher...
The word 'totem' contains the idea of the order of species. We carry in our bodies the potential of all species, all the way to our desire to fly-like the thunderbird at the top of the totem pole.
Written and directed by Robert Lepage with artistic guidance by Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix, choreography by Jeff Hall, sets by Carl Fillion, costumes by Kym Barrett, music by Bob & Bill (AKA Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard), lighting by Etienne Boucher and sound by Jacques Boucher.
"Cirque du Soleil's overextended new show, Totem, directed by the Canadian mastermind Robert Lepage, has an evolutionary theme. It feels longer than the Neolithic period, but is considerably less entertaining... Totem inconsistently follows humanity's aspiration from primeval sludge into flight, and it is undeniably thrilling to watch aerialists and pole-spinners possess the air beneath the Albert Hall's domed roof. Lepage's interest in evolution falters - a procession showing the development from chimp to banker (is that progress?) follows two shaggy humanoids playing heavy metal. Intellectually sophisticated it isn't... There are other routines of spectacular skill here, feats of strength, balance and dexterity, but they're strictly rationed. Lepage bafflingly prefers scenes of brainrottingly tedious farce: a dork in a fishing boat pulls the plug out of the ocean; a preening Italian waggles his pelvis. At moments like this, evolution appears to have gone into reverse. There are dozens of accomplished artists involved in Totem, with not a single funny bone between them." The Sunday Times
"Arriving in London after a run in Amsterdam, it's a characteristically extravagant and visually astonishing production. The theme is evolution. Robert Lepage is the presiding magus who has written and directed this heady fusion of Darwin, oddball theology and off-piste mysticism... As usual, there are no animals, but Totem is fascinated with the untamed, bestial qualities of humankind, and it seeks repeatedly to unearth buried memories of our species's primitive precursors. The accompanying music, by the Cirque regulars known as Bob & Bill, is a cocktail of lusty percussion, chillout tunes and the sort of spuriously tropical beats you might expect to hear at a suburban dinner party. The live band, who nestle behind what look like bulrushes, play all of this with unrelenting gusto. Some of the comic moments are wooden; few are genuinely funny... It's easy to be blase or cynical about this kind of show. But, when it relinquishes its galactic pretensions and gets on with the dazzling physicality, Totem is thrilling." The London Evening Standard
"Theatre guru Robert Lepage has written and directs Cirque du Soleil's latest show, Totem, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He's come up with a really baffling storyline - something about the ascent of man. A live Euro-rock band is thus concealed in a bamboo forest upstage while, on a circular beach, performers in ape costumes mingle with a group of muscular Baywatch lifeguards. Then there is a man with a beard who may or may not be Charles Darwin. The theme is inoffensive, feelgood, multi-ethnic 'family of man' twaddle... A Native American and his squaw whizz around each other on rollerskates in a highspeed blur. Best of all, there is a tense display from five smiley Chinese girls on unicycles who pedal about furiously while flicking metal dishes on to each other's heads with their feet, never dropping one. It's breathtakingly skilful and certainly doesn't need all the bombastic palaver surrounding the show... You look in vain for any rhyme or reason to the narrative. Naffness is never far away. There's an awful outbreak of Spanish guitar playing, some cringingly unfunny clowns and a general feeling that the producers have run out of new ways to present old acts. The skills on display produce occasional gasps of 'how do they do that?' astonishment. However, you have to wade through a lot of humourless, world-hugging, theatrical banality to get to the really good parts." The Mail on Sunday
Cirque du Soleil in London with Varekai at the Royal Albert Hall
Opened 6 January 2008, Closed February 2008
Returned 6 January 2010, Closed 14 February 2010
In a dream forest, acrobatics and beauty meet... Deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, exists an extraordinary world-a world where something else is possible. A world called Varekai. From the sky falls a solitary young man and the story of Varekai begins. Parachuted into the shadows of a magical forest, a kaleidoscopic world populated by fantastical creatures, this young man sets off on an adventure both absurd and extraordinary. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of all possibilities, begins an inspired incantation to life rediscovered. The word Varekai means 'wherever' in the Romany language of the gypsies and this show promises to take any viewer wherever they dream as Varekai engages the spirit and art of the circus tradition with jaw-dropping acrobatic choreography set to beautifully crafted music.
Created and directed by Dominic Champagne with choreography by Michael Montanaro and Bill Shannon, sets by Stephane Roy, costumes by Eiko Ishioka, music by Violaine Corradi, lighting by Nol van Genuchten, projections by Francis Laporte and sound by Francois Bergeron.
"I began as a huge fan, delighted that circus was no longer a matter of fake-heroic tiger-trainers and elephants dolefully tugging each other's tails, yet have become increasingly sceptical with the Cirque's every outing. And perhaps that's my fault. Oh, so here's a contortionist so elastic that each leg moves from 180 to 360 degrees to the other, both of them swivelling on to her forehead. Oh, here are trapezists who dance in mid-air, ending as a turquoise-coloured knot far beyond anything mentioned in Scouting for Boys. Perhaps the Cirque's very success has left me jaded and blase... Yes, the show is often visually so striking that it seems ungrateful to call it prettified or clever-clever. Even the clowning is funnier than usual... At times the show is self consciously arty. At others it seems formulaic, though here you would have to add that the Cirque patented the formula. But it was when I found myself relieved by the occasional error that I realised what it was that bothered me. The problem is that the Cirque has substituted technical expertise for humanity. Bluntly, it lacks soul." The Times
"It can be thrilling: a team of rocketing Russians, in flaming red and yellow, use each others hands and the soles of their feet as launch pads, then leap from one gigantic moving swing to another in stunts so suicidal that they made my palms sweat. It can also be baffling: how come the angel, Icarus, gets off with the astounding contortionist in the finale? But this circus isn't about narrative; dramatic tension here is a matter of holding your breath until a safe landing is made. Apart from that, all you can do is sit back and gasp, in amazement mostly, but also with bored dismay at the tacky, tedious, infinitely lame clowning acts, the garish, Lurex body-suits garnished with blobby spines, the infants disguised as giant sea anemones and the bland, pulpy pop music." The Mail on Sunday
"Cirque du Soleil's string of spectaculars - Alegria, Quidam, Saltimbanco, Osso Bucco, Dyspepsia, whatever - linger in the memory as a multicoloured blur of circus skills and synthetic new-age drivel. Ultimately it is the stunts that stick in the mind: the impossible Chinese skipping routine; the man with the giant ice-cube thingy; the woman bouncing a hundred little rubber balls and, of course, The Contortionist... It is only as you settle into your seat for Varekai that you remember that all that eye-popping skill and dexterity comes garnished with clowning and posturing of the most witless and tedious kind in order that a few superb circus turns can be padded out to two-and-a-half hours... The glorious stunts will doubtless stick in the mind, just as the humourless and bombastic filler will once again fade from the memory; but none of the Varekai acts was a real must-see and the show as a whole is just another slice of the Cirque du Soleil sausage." The Sunday Telegraph
Cirque du Soleil in London with Alegria at the Royal Albert Hall
Opened 7 January 1998, Closed 8 February 1998
Returned 5 January 1999, Closed 7 February 1999
Returned 5 January 2006, Closed 12 February 2006
Returned 5 January 2007, Closed 8 February 2007
A 'classic' spectacle that showcases breathtaking acrobatics. Alegría is more than a show... it is an exciting and unique experience that will captivate all ages.
Alegria is a Spanish term expressing elation, jubilation and exhilaration. As one of the Cirque du Soleil's classic productions, Alegria features all the thrills and excitement theatre-goers have come to expect from Cirque du Soleil with an amazing diversity of performances by an equally diverse cast.
Directed by Franco Dragone with choreography by Debra Brown, sets by Michel Crete, costumes by Dominique Lemieux, lighting by Luc Lafortune and music by Rene Dupere.
"The Albert Hall has played host to everything from the Bolshoi to boxing in the past. Sometimes the venue shines. Sometimes it sucks. But in this soulful extravaganza magicked up by Cirque du Soleil it appears to have met its perfect match. Both stage and audience are bathed in the same dappled, autumnal light. The vast set, a cathedral of wires and gantries and rope ladders, soars into the shadows of the dome. And the yawning space is filled with a shimmering, three-dimensional orgy of delight... Circus can be a tacky business. Here, the performers are granted the dignity they deserve. Even the most granite heart would be hard pushed not to melt." The Sunday Times
"For the next few weeks the Royal Albert Hall will be home to the Cirque de Soleil (French-Canadian in origin, strongly international in character) and their latest presentation, Alegria. I hadn't seen the Cirque before, though I had heard a great deal about them; and though they may not quite live up to the more transcendental claims that have been made for them by their admirers, there can be no doubt that they put on a magnificent show... The main programme, like the programme of any conventional circus, consists of a series of acts; and the acts themselves, in spite of all the unusual trimmings, turn out to be surprisingly traditional. They are also of an astonishingly high quality." The Sunday Telegraph
"Cirque du Soleil turns the circus into an art form to create a theatre of wonderment in which awe is the main attraction. Alegria (Spanish for joy), which opened in London last night, is a sequel to last year's Saltimbanco, but far slicker in its turnover of astounding acts. The show is joyful, as the name suggests, because it scales a Utopia of physical perfection and ferocious virtuosity while teasing the body into extraordinary feats... Alegria is the best way to blow away the winter blues - but don't try the tricks at home." The London Evening Standard
"The circus is back in town. But not any old circus. Cirque du Soleil is undoubtedly the cleanest circus in the world. It is also the most successful. Alegria is its biggest show yet. This is circus as it might be if it were produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Macintosh with a little help from the Royal Military Tattoo... What you get for your money is some of the world's greatest circus acts wrapped up in a cloak of meaningless spectacle. It is easy on eye, hard on the ear - unless you are a devotee of the type ballad that fails to win France the Eurovision Song Contest year after year - and completely numbing on the brain... Part of this blandness stems from the fact that this is an international show for an international market." The Guardian
"This is an ultra-modem animal-free vegetarian concept circus which with an almost creepy degree of success - has blown every other circus out of the water... But what in the end is so impressive is the level of skill on offer. The tumbling and multiple trapeze act are not only world class but no one made a single mistake. Not one. You almost longed for an accident. One may regret the demise of Coco the Clown and Wally the Walrus but if you want to see where circus is at these days, then you've got to roll up." The Daily Express
"Alegria is a Spanish word expressing elation, joy and jubilation. This show, which contains only a scatter of spoken words, has been publicised with a waterfall of verbiage. Never has so much guff surrounded so much brilliance. Never have so many woolly, tear-jerking statements accompanied such a series of breath-taking physical feats. Here they go on the subject of street children: 'Tonight, our cries of joy will become screams of rage because millions of young hearts will again freeze in the gutters of our goodwill.' And never, probably, has so much money been made from a circus... The smell arising from the ring is not as purely aromatherapeutic as its promoters would like us to think. Nevertheless, it is an evening of thrilling moments." The Observer
Cirque du Soleil in London with Dralion at the Royal Albert Hall
Opened 8 January to 15 February 2004
Returned 6 January to 6 February 2005
Fusing the 3,000 year-old tradition of Chinese acrobatic arts with the multidisciplinary approach of Cirque du Soleil, Dralion draws its inspiration from Eastern philosophy and its never-ending quest for harmony between humans and nature. In the world of Dralion, cultures blend, Man and Nature are one, and balance is achieved. Bearing the unmistakable signature of Cirque du Soleil and featuring 50 international acrobats, gymnasts, clowns, musicians and singers, Dralion soars to new heights as it defies the laws of nature.
The show's name is derived from its two emblematic creatures: the dragon, symbolizing the East, and the lion, symbolizing the West. In Dralion, the four elements that govern the natural order take on a human form. Thus embodied, each element is represented by its own evocative colour: air is blue; water is green; fire is red; earth is ochre.
Directed by Guy Caron with choreography by Julie Lachance, sets by Stephane Roy, costumes by Francois Barbeau, lighting by Luc Lafortune, sound by Guy Desrochers and music by Violaine Corradi.
"Cirque du Soleil is an often irritatingly arty circus with unfunny clowns and annoying kid acrobats whose bones are made of rubber. Its acts, though, are sensational and there's nothing to beat them. Its new show Dralion has a sort of New Age Chinese theme, the dralions being acrobats dressed as giant Pekinese dogs. Amid the atmosphere of a noisy oriental fiesta, the stunts are just incredible with circus skills taken to new heights. Watch out for the amazing juggler; the acrobats who shoot through minute hoops like leaping salmon; and the aerialists who create an erotic mid-air ballet of amazing beauty. If you haven't seen Cirque before, go. There's no circus like it for sheer physical eye-popping drama." The Daily Express
"In the 20 years since its inception, Cirque du Soleil has grown from a small group of alternative circus practitioners to a huge global enterprise with three permanent shows in Las Vegas alone, quite apart from various touring presentations. Watching the European premiere of the Montreal-based company's latest show, Dralion, it's easy to see why. In conception, design and performance, Dralion is a breathtaking spectacle... On a set featuring a vast high-tech climbing-board backdrop and a disc-shaped gantry that descends from the Albert Hall's dome, a succession of balancing, gymnastic, tumbling and aerial acts engage in a dazzling presentation. The action blends seamlessly, so that in a moment we progress from the relatively languorous beauty of the aerial pas de deux to a high-speed frenzy of diving through hoops. It's all quite remarkable... With circus, we have to smell the sweat, as it were, but here it's been sprayed away... This is designer circus, or, better, nouvelle circus: like nouvelle cuisine, it's a beautiful, exotic arrangement of original ingredients, expertly prepared and presented; you contemplate it with unbridled admiration, but there's curiously little to get your teeth into." The Financial Times
"Maybe Alegria has not quite the lavish variety and visual strangeness of Saltimbanco, the show the Cirque du Soleil folk first brought to London in 1996... An evening that can be recommended almost as unreservedly as Saltimbanco. Once again Cirque du Soleil has created an imaginative world that acknowledges tradition, reaches into the future, and is ceaselessly busy in the present. Once again it will keep your organs of wonder exercised: eyes, ears and, yes, the dreamy bits in between." The Times
Cirque du Soleil in London with Saltimbanco at the Royal Albert Hall
Opened 5 January 1996, Closed 17 January 1996
Returned 2 January 1997, Closed 31 January 1997
Returned 7 January 2003, Closed 9 February 2003
Saltimbanco is show inspired by the urban fabric of the metropolis and its colourful inhabitants. The name is derived from Italian 'saltare in banco', which literally means 'to jump on a bench' - explores the urban experience in all its myriad forms: the people who live there, their idiosyncrasies and likenesses, families and groups, the hustle and bustle of the street and the towering heights of skyscrapers. Between whirlwind and lull, prowess and poetry, Saltimbanco takes spectators on an allegorical and acrobatic journey into the heart of the city.
"Saltimbanco is a collection of decent enough circus turns set in a lurid frame of ugly costuming and psychedelic lighting, with a raucous and over-loud rock accompaniment. What it lacks in visual wit it makes up for in abundant winsomeness. The clowns mop and mow, as clowns do, many of them suffering from nasty attacks of the Marcel Marceaus, and are very roguish indeed. Four lady contortionists indulge in one of the less agreeable human activities - sitting on each other's heads, and two beefy chaps in green tights strain to balance on various parts of their musculature. There is a brilliant juggler and a fine female trapeze artist who sails intrepid and serene above our heads. I do not find that the other acts bear much comparison with performers I have seen with Chinese and Russian circuses. The rock music and the singing are noxious." The Financial Times
"Fast becoming Canada's most famous export, Cirque du Soleil is, like the country it hails from, spectacular to look at but rather lacking in soul. After all the hype, their latest show, Saltimbanco, turns out to be rather less than the greatest show on earth and slighty more than a hi-tech, balletic pop concert. Saltimbanco is a new style rock'n'roll circus whose success rests as much on the laser light show as it does on the contortionists or the trapeze artists. Sawdust is not in evidence. With its commedia dell'arte-inspired costumes in dayglo colours, spooky Venetian carnival-style masks, a tightly choreographed cast of 45, modernist set, non-stop music and grand lighting, Saltimbanco doesn't know the meaning of the word excess... But what this show really lacks is a whiff of danger and a sense of anarchy. The clowns are too tidy and well behaved, the choreographer is obsessed with symmetry, and the whole show is so well drilled that it loses any feeling of sponteneity. What one misses is the vulgarity that characterises more traditional circus." The Guardian
"The Cirque du Soleil folk create a complete imaginative world that acknowledges tradition, seems to reach into the future, yet is ceaselessly busy in the present. Think of a commedia troupe from Andromeda, or a fairyland ruled by a 21st-century Oberon; add sci-fi sounds and sweet airs; and you have some of their quality. The impression they give from the first is of tourists who have come from outer or inner space to inspect us earthlings and seek our approval... The performers skim up and spin round poles; leap off a giant swing 30 feet in the air and multi-somersault onto a mattress; bounce and whirl to the flies on elastic. An Incredible Hulk lifts an upside-down Hercules onto his palms, then onto his feet and upwards. Gravity is less defied than flouted by beings who look like anything from gladiators to dragon-flies to the results of a mythic coupling between a parrot and a Mr Blobby. Even the funny-man is not an earthbound clown, but a goofy, toothy mime with the skill to create a jungle where there is only a bare stage. The old-style circus ignored the imagination. This fills and lifts it. I cannot recommend it too highly." The Times