With Cirque Du Soleil it is all about the ups and downs. When Covid struck, the all-conquering Canadian circus company’s global empire immediately stopped moving. With this European premiere of Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities it is very much back. The ups and downs now are limited to the antics of their acrobats.
There is a noticeably different tone to Kurios compared to past spectaculars. There are no ethereal nymphs or woodland creatures. The aesthetic is more steampunk, all bathyspheres and chunky robots waddling around.
The trademark spirituality still lingers. A white clad ‘seeker’ oversees proceedings, introducing us to his world of wonder. Fortunately he stays mostly out of the way, leaving the audience to enjoy some absolutely stunning acts alongside a little padding.
Things are a little chaotic until juggler Louis-Philippe Jodoin pulls focus. There is nothing special about what he does until he suddenly rises up and continues to catch his clubs while suspended in mid-air. The show springs into captivating life.
When a giant hand rolls on a group of cotortionists emerge from it, their limbs swaying in unison like a human sea anemone. This is merely the prelude to an outstanding set-piece, when a dinner party scene on the stage is replicated on the ceiling. To reveal more would spoil the breathtaking drama.
The points where the momentum dips usually involve the clowning. Facundo Gimenez introduces us to his “invisible circus”, with objects such as the mini tightrope and ladder moving as if someone is on them. The title encapsulates the inherent problem. There is nothing to see here.
Colombia’s James Gonzalez offers true magic though, balancing on a tower of cylinders and blocks. It is either a trick worthy of Derren Brown or a feat of physical dexterity which defies the laws of physics. Gonzalez doesn’t drop a thing, but you’ll have to pick your jaw up off the floor.
The second half has a more dreamlike sensibility. Men with fish tails dance while others reveal their skills with a net. Not a fishing net, but a huge springy net that allows them to bounce into the rafters. Roman and Vitali Tamanov on aerial straps are another literal high, swooping over the audience.
It is these large-scale moments, along with the striking set, designed by Stéphane Roy, that make Kurios so enticing. Although some finger puppetry from Nico Baixas, projected onto a balloon and complete with breakdancing digits, exudes an intimate charm all of its own.
Past shows have felt a little too corporate. Kurios has an earthier feel. Beware though. You will spend so much time gazing up in awe you might wake with a stiff neck. But it will be worth it.
Royal Albert Hall, to March 5; buy tickets here