Despite the fact that I am fascinated by gymnastics and do love a good show, I have never been to Cirque du Soleil before. I’d never even considered going – I don’t know why not. But then a while ago, The Flatmate managed to get a couple of tickets through work and I jumped at the chance to join her. I spent months getting excited and then, finally, the time came for our visit on Wednesday night.
After a Wagamama dinner on the South Bank, we made our way over to South Kensington. I managed to fall up the stairs but made it out of the tube station unscathed. The walk up to the Royal Albert Hall seemed to take an age, through the long underpass and past the many snazzy buildings of South Ken, but soon enough we were in our seats. We’d arrived with about half an hour to spare. Doors opened at 7.15pm but the performance didn’t start until 8pm, so I took the opportunity to grab an inevitable Instagram photo (I’d never been to the Royal Albert Hall before) and spent the next 29 minutes and 40 seconds waiting on the edge of my seat.
About 10 minutes before the production was due to start, a few of the cast members appeared on stage. Running around to keep the audience entertained. Then, as the clock struck 8, we were off.
Apparently Amaluna is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Tempest. I must admit, that is not a Shakespeare play I have read so I can’t tell you exactly how closely it is related. The story started with Miranda, on her coming-of-age day, and her mother and quickly descended into a performance by a glitzy dance troupe, before the acrobats started coming out. There was a group jumping through hoops, of an ever increasing height, and then women flying around in a hoop and on ropes.
I couldn’t believe how easy they all made it look. I mean, the girls on the ropes looked as at ease as if they were just being pushed on a swingset. I tried one Aerial Hoops class towards the end of last year and I couldn’t even get into the thing without a serious leg up – and then I only managed to properly pull myself up into a sitting position once before my back gave up. Everyone here however made it look like movements they were doing were completely normal. Like it would be weird if you couldn’t do that stuff. I sat there impressed yet jealous in equal parts.
There was a vague story line to the performance – a group of sailors get shipwrecked and Miranda falls in love with one of them (Romeo) but her lizard-man-friend keeps trying to keep them apart. Her mother falls for the pirate captain and the two of them clown around together between some of the performances. Sometimes they were quite funny – other times they went into the audience below us and, from our third tier seats, we couldn’t see them at all. We could only hear kissing noises, which was a bit weird. Really, I just wanted them to get back to the acrobatics.
The rest of the show included Miranda swimming around in a bath before doing a balancing contortion act using poles on the side, Romeo running up and down, and swinging around, a tall pole, a group using something that reminded me of a climbing frame (but were actually like the bars used in Olympic gymnastics) to swing themselves around (I never saw that happening in the playground), a male troupe bouncing around on a seesaw, sending each other high into the air and doing flips, and another balancing each other and throwing each other around. There was also one performer who did a balancing act, using her feet to pick up long wooden sticks and making a big structure with them. The lizard man also did a juggling act.
All the while, there was a band playing in the background. Some of the cast members sang as well. The main singer was sometimes visible, standing on a platform towards the back. When the electric guitars struck up, it reminded me of Mad Max: Fury Road, when the bad guys are driving around with the electric guitar player playing away on the front of one of the vehicles. It was all quite dramatic.
Oh, and I can’t forget another highlight – my interval ice cream. Whenever I go to a performance, be it a play or the ballet, it’s just tradition to get a little pot of ice cream during the break. That might make me a child but I don’t care. On this occasion, the ice cream of choice was Haagen Dazs. I went for Belgium Chocolate Chip. At £3.50, it was quite a lot for a small pot but totally worth it.
The Flatmate and I were sitting with one of her colleagues, who is quite into gymnastics himself. This was not his first Cirque du Soleil production and he commented that it was not as slick and the acts were not as impressive as some of the performances he had seen before. The Flatmate also thought the acts would be more daredevil-ish.
In all honesty, I can see what they meant but I was still no less impressed. I was I was sitting there with a dodgy arm, having hurt it attempting (and by attempting I mean failing) to do one single handstand in a class the night before and here they were flying around on hoops, ropes and poles and throwing themselves, and each other, around as though it was the most natural thing in the world. You would not want to mess with a Cirque du Soleil performer – I can only imagine the amount of muscle it must take to do that.
I swear when I actually pluck up the courage to go back to an Aerial Hoops class, I will do better. Let’s face it, with my dodgy back and knees (blimey I am getting old), I may have missed by chance to be an acrobat, but if I can just get myself up into a hoop without being hoisted up, I will be happy.