Cirque du Soleil is constantly reinventing itself. Indeed, the Quebec-based circus founded in the early-1980s is in reality a world-class creative laboratory and catalyst for creation. This much-anticipated Luzia version at the Royal Albert Hall is a Mexican take on founder Guy Laliberté’s original vision. its been given a distinctive artistic approach by the creative team, particularly the show director Daniele Finzi Pasca who spent a decade living in Mexico and the creative director Patricia Ruel who married a Mexican.
The Royal Albert Hall is a majestic venue worthy of this unusual creative collision. Once the around-the-block queues just to collect a ticket have been navigated, inside is the most awesome, cavernous space with a distinctive circular stage. It means that although there is limited seating in the stalls next to the stage where I am seated, the galleries can present a different but equally as effective viewing experience.
This is a technical and artistic masterpiece
As a copywriter, I’m always interested in the narrative of any performance, but the story for Luzia is refreshingly simple. A man, on his way via plane to Mexico, parachutes into a curious place. He turns a giant key and what unfolds is a world of colour, feathers and mythical creatures. Through him we embark on a “mesmerising voyage where light quenches the spirit and rain ignites the soul”.
At its core, CdS Luzia is a circus – what’s not to like? Although I would prefer to see less of their human faces, there are acrobatic hoop-diving birds who defy physics with inventive use of a travellator. Melvin Diggs is a standout performer here. Alongside Stéphane Beauregard and Naomi Zimmerman, he makes a later appearance on the Chinese poles. The lavishly comedic puppets bring a surrealism reminiscent of TV show The Mighty Boosh, at times parodying the performance of the dancer (ballroom dancing cockroaches, anyone?!). What with the dancing corduroy cacti and the fish-headed instrumentalists in zoot suits, Luzia is part pantomime, part Carnival, part crowd participation. It’s also a real ode to Mexico in all its forms – the costumes, the biodiversity, the natural beauty.
I have never before seen Cyr wheels – giant hula hoops elegantly straddled and manipulated with deliberate care or at great speed. It is one of the most mesmerising feats, performed by Rosa Tyyska and Nora Zoller, I have ever witnessed. Even better than the fantastically sickening and grotesque contortions from Aleksai Golobordko (I have to look away) and the talented aerial strappists and swing acrobatics. Abou Traoré is a joy to watch performing football dance. But the centrepiece is the decorative waterfall. Truly, this is a technical and artistic masterpiece. I actually wow out loud at the beauty of the shapes and patterns made.
There is a disappointingly disjointed moment while we wait for the stage to be dried by stagehands. Our main protagonist, the man from the plane, also acts as a clown. I am not a fan of this kind of pantomime and find it too childish and exaggerated.
My feeling is that Luzia doesn’t quite know what genre it is in – but maybe that’s the point. Its a melee of different styles of circus wrapped in a giant Mexican tortilla of gorgeousness. I’m both irked and full of joy at the same time. There is a dizzying amount of action to steal my attention, possibly too much. At times I feel motion sick.
Luzia brings the magic of Mexico to the stage, and that is an achievement to be mightily proud of
Throughout, there’s the sense that we’re supposed to, as the audience, be paying attention to certain acts and we get chastised when we don’t applaud in the right places; but considering the amount going on, it feels like we should be given a break.
When a show is as incredible as this, the mistakes stand out. The proverbial (and literal) ball is dropped a couple of times. Forgivable, but less so is the conclusion, which is something of an anticlimax and feels unfinished and confusing. The general inconsistency makes the whole thing feel a bit like a practice run, which, considering it’s the red-carpet premiere, is frustrating. However, the performances, the singing by Mexico native Majo Cornejo and live music are all incredible and do well to make up for this. There’s elegance, humour and an abundance of impressive muscular physique. Luzia brings the magic of Mexico to the stage, and that is an achievement to be mightily proud of.