Review: Is The Sun Setting On Cirque Du Soleil?

Cirque du Soleil, Royal Albert Hall ★★☆☆☆

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 100 months ago

Last Updated 26 January 2016

Review: Is The Sun Setting On Cirque Du Soleil? Cirque du Soleil, Royal Albert Hall 2

Whenever a new Cirque du Soleil show rolls into London, expectations are set as high as the ceiling of their habitual haunt the Royal Albert Hall. That might change after Amaluna’s run, their latest big-budget outing.

This production debuted in 2012 and has two overt selling points: it has never been seen in the UK before and its cast is largely female. The plot (such as it is) revolves around Miranda, a queen’s daughter growing up on a hidden island governed by goddesses and populated by warrior women. One day, a hunky fellow washes up on shore and young love ensues. It’s one part The Tempest, many parts a Wonder Woman origin story.

In part, this Cirque du Soleil outing has been hoisted by its own glittery petard. Last year’s Koozå was a doozy with its epic Wheel Of Death and the thrilling bicycle-on-a-tightrope section. In comparison, Amaluna lacks any set pieces of this magnitude and feels like a show relatively lacking in ambition and scope despite the founder and CEO being a billionaire space tourist and the company 90% owned by financial institutions.

That’s not to say there are no high points. The giant water bowl scenes (reminiscent of La Soiree’s Bath Boy) see Miranda and her beau Romeo move as fluidly as the water around them in a routine packed with skill and sensuality. The multiple ensemble numbers are a breathtaking display of acrobatics if lacking in invention. The all-lady rock band adds drama and punch to even the most ho-hum sections.

Ultimately, it is not history that lets Amaluna down as much as Diana Paulus’ lax direction. Her first time with Cirque, she has created a show which is too laidback for one of this ilk. The love story between Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, sorry, Miranda and Romeo never really convinces. Two clowns, presumably included to help cover set changes and bring an element of audience interaction, slow the show down whenever they appear; at times, their infantile antics cross the line between dumbed-down and just plain dumb.

It may boast the usual army of performers, premium venue and lavish set design but, other than that, Amaluna has nothing to set it apart from the crop of circus productions seen around the UK over the last few years. To name but a few, Australia’s Circa, South American crew Circolombia, Bristol’s No Fit State and South London outfit Aircraft Circus have been seen in London with equally entertaining and inventive shows albeit with access to a tiny fraction of Cirque’s finances.

If either of the two selling points are automatic winners for you, book your ticket now. Otherwise there is far better big top action around this year like the current Mimefest and the upcoming biennial carnival that is Circusfest.

Cirque du Soleil continues at the Royal Albert Hall until 6 March. Tickets are from £20. More information can be found on the website. Londonist attended on a complimentary press ticket.