Saturday 15 January 2022

Luzia - Review

Royal Albert Hall, London


Written and directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca

After a Covid-induced interregnum exceeding 600 days, Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia returns to the Royal Albert Hall, reprising its Mexican themed extravaganza of human skills and water-based artistry.

As is nearly always the case in touring circuses that pitch up in the capital, the physical talent on display is stunning. The power, stamina, precision, courage and sheer human genius of the aerialists, pole artistes, trapeze performers and many more defies our understanding and we rightly gasp in awe at the skills on display before us. What is not the case for most touring shows however is the price tag. At Luzia most adult tickets sold at less than £100 will deliver a restricted view, while for the best seats in the house, the cost edges closer to £300 each. 

Is it worth it? Well for 2 ½ hours – including a 25 minute interval – the circus craft on display is world class. Combining mime, physical theatre and music – with supreme physical agility, Mexican culture ranging from the Aztecs through to the nation’s renowned talents with a football are cleverly interweaved. There is some gorgeous animal work too, including a horse and a big cat, cleverly brought to life by their human puppeteers.

Rain and water form a large part of the evening’s imagery, with a fiendishly smart spray arm sitting above the revolving stage and a centre pool. From here, sheets of water not only offer an enchanting backdrop to some acts, they also deliver up some clever images captured in the rhythm of the cascading drops. Ingenious? For sure. But these waterworks display the talent of designers and technicians, supported by state of the art technology. For decades, the essence of Cirque du Soleil's magic has been drawn from its displays of human talent, wowing audiences with unimaginable feats of strength and style that are live, vibrant and risky. By contrast, this aquatic display of digital wizardry could arguably be better presented around the corner at London’s Science Museum.

With a cast of 50 and a backstage crew of at least equal numbers, Luzia is lavish and, for the most part, great fun. For sure this is a feast for the eyes, including the eye-watering skills of Russian contortionist Aleksei Goloborodko who shows his body to be far more serpentine than the famous pond that’s just across the road. But at the risk of sounding churlish, alongside the show's unquestioned beauty and talent, more death-defying acts wouldn’t have gone amiss. From Holland, the appropriately named Fool Koller delivers occasional clown routines that are at times more subtle than hilarious.

In Hamlet, Gertrude asks for “more matter with less art” and there are moments in Luzia when that sentiment rings true. But where a family of four will need to spend close to a grand for ringside seats with a view, one cannot help but recall the words of Phineas T. Barnum...

Runs until 27 February 2022