This year the Royal Albert Hall celebrates one hundred and fifty years of excellent eclectic entertainment since being opened by happy Queen Victoria in1871. This coincides with the twenty fifth anniversary of Cirque du Soleil’s first performance in London. Each year, (after an enforced two year hiatus caused by Covid) they take up residence in their adopted UK home in early January. So it is that Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico explodes into the hallowed arena giving us a spectacle of spectaculars.
Having seen several of their productions, I have become accustomed to the visual magnificence and am always looking for a bit more of the je ne sais quoi that lifts it out of the Soleil formula and has seen them become an international phenomenon. I’m pleased to report that Luzia has those qualities as we are taken on a whimsical and fantastical journey into Mexican traditions and colourful imaginings that provoke thought while you are being extravagantly entertained. Designers Daniele Finzi Pasca and Patricia Ruel have used all means possible to create images and sequences that delight. Against that colourful backdrop, the troupe of performers spring into action demonstrating extraordinary levels of skill and alacrity.
An army of acrobats, in an array of artistically designed costumes, execute all sorts of stunning feats. As good as they are, it is the individual acts that light up the action. None more so than Aleksei Goloborodko, a contortionist that can do things with his body that made me wince in pain at the thought of the positions he gets into. He has been described as “the most flexible man in the world.” True or not, his act is astonishing, stretching my incredulity to its elastic limit. The show does occasionally become a very polished and picture perfect show which tests the historical essence on which circus is predicated. Thankfully my pleasure-seeking side trumped my pedantry and I allowed myself to wallow in a show that will bring enormous pleasure to many. Welcome back Cirque’, we look forward to the next twenty five years.
Meanwhile Mihalis Oktobothi laps up mistaking magic…
Mischief Theatre Company are always getting up to no good. Renown for shows that go wrong…on purpose. Imagine then getting together with the legendary magicians Penn & Teller to come up with their latest theatrical madness, Magic Goes Wrong (Yvonne Arnaud). A hapless gang of magicians are staging an evening of grand illusion to raise cash for charity. But as the magic turns to mayhem, accidents spiral out of control and so does their fundraising target. That’s the premise and the show is a blast with scene after scene that play around with the magic show genre. When they hit the mark, it’s cracking entertainment. When the material is weak, they make up for it with self deprecating wit.
It is hosted by the Great Sophisticato and the acts include a variety of oddball characters. Mind Mangler is bonkers and when it goes wrong for him, it’s serious for him and those being mangled. Strangely though, some of the ‘real’ tricks are just as memorable and of course we have no idea how they do them. The man next to me was from the Magic Circle. Their motto indocilis privata loqui – “not apt to disclose secrets” – prevented him from answering my obvious questions. That said ignorance is bliss and I wallowed in my ignorance to enjoy the show which surprisingly includes a sentimental ending. Sorry, I’ve been sworn to secrecy.
Finally, Vivat Stactou is enchanted and moved by dance at war…
Raymonda (London Coliseum) was first produced for the Marinsky Theatre in St Petersburg in 1898. Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director at The English National Ballet has created a new version adapting the original Marius Petipa choreography, transporting the tale from 13th century crusades to the Crimean War. Raymonda runs away from home to become a nurse, gets engaged to John (Joseph Caley) and then falls in love with the leader of the Ottoman army, Abdul Rahman (Daniel McCormick).
Rojo’s choreograpy captures all the the emotion of the piece with wonderful innovation and creativity. There is a most wonderful dream scene where we see Raymonda dance with both John and Abdul, accompanied by a stage full of women in wispy white dresses carrying lanterns, sweeping across the scene at great speed with the thudding from the pointe shoes adding to the excitement. They leap into the wings followed by the men, also dressed in white. This is ballet at its best, accompanied by tremendous music, a scene of enormous excitement.
The castle party scene shows the male dancers excelling, athletic and strong, extraordinary leaps and jumps. The show ends in an English country garden, Raymonda’s house, and her marriage to John. Lots of very colourful character dancing in gorgeous costumes. Superb dancing all round, but the two that really catch the eye are Katja Khaniukova (Henriette) and Natasha Mair (Sister Clemence).

Luzia – www.royalalberthall.com
Magic Goes Wrong – www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk
Raymonda – on tour – www.ballet.org.uk

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