**** (4 / 5 stars)
Perhaps the name to be most associated with the art of circus, Cirque du Soleil needs little introduction. With their meteoric rise in world-wide tours they have become an industry of their own making. Truly something to aspire to.
First seen back in 2014, Kurious – Cabinet of Curiosities is a steam-punk, fever dream showing of many eye-bulging acts. There are way too many names to mention (from 22 different countries) but I was staggered by the energy, the athleticism and the bravado that all offered. I honestly wouldn’t have minded a bit more of a narrative approach, something to be hooked by between screens changes and the like. Through this approachable universality of the whole thing is a crowd pleasing decision often through broad humour, metallic spectacle and outrageous feats. This is also the most props they have ever used for any of their shows: 426 in total.
Michel Laprise as writer and director has tapped into a goldmine of ideas here, the unrelenting flux of circus testament to the evening. Some personal favourite acts were Chih-Min Tuan, his intimate and dazzling Yo-Yo skills, something I never expected to see on a show of this scale. The hand puppet work of Theatre of Hands was just wonderful and clever, one of many delights. From Ukraine, Andrii Bondarenko left people flabbergasted with his Upside Down World something which just needs to be seen to be believed. Contortionists astride a giant mechanical hand, shock with their nimbleness and fluidity. Aerial and net play also were delightful with nods to The Creature from the Black Lagoon and other winks. Off note was the singer Sophie Guay, with a gramophone horn in her hair who added an extra depth to the acts and kept up a fine rollicking swing. The band were also a sensation, the celli being visible from the clockwork backstage.
The amazing set and costumes are of the finest quality as well, evoking the surreal, French Canadian vibe of the whole show. Mr Microcosmos played by Mathieu Hubener took on 20 pounds of metal costumes, a protruding belly where Mademoiselle Lili lived. Tackled by Rima Hadchiti, an evocation of circus of the past is here as her inclusion as a dwarf is a well handled and welcoming force and she often left us smiling. The Tomanobv Brothers appeared at first to be conjoined twins but this was a lie, something which leaves a bit of a bad taste today. Though their aerial straps act had us reeling.
Framing the whole event was Cherecher played by Antonio Moreno, a mad scientist of sorts, lost between dreams and the real world, often floating around in the air. Facundo Giminez had his Invisible Circus (an idea which could have gone either way were it not for the squibs and strings) and a odd scene when he dragged a poor lady on stage and began to throw up a mock hairball as a cat he took the persona of.
I’d recommend for the spectacle, though those seeking more meaty stories might need to look else where.
Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities runs at the Royal Albert hall till 5 March 2023.