Last night I was lucky enough to be taken to see the Cirque de Soleil’s Kooza at the Royal Albert Hall by my friend Susan as an early birthday present. I’ve never been to the Royal Albert Hall before and I’ve heard so many great things about Cirque de Soleil that this was a bit of double-whammy of joyful things for me.
I am terrible at booking anything cultural in advance but it was so lovely to have something exciting to do in the middle of the most depressing month of the year. It was freezing and frosty last night and as we made our way up to the hall it felt more like Christmas, the Christmas weather we missed amongst all the rain.
Every time I find myself in South Kensington I decide that I don’t spend nearly enough time there. No matter how nice the part of London in which I live is, it feels insignificant and ramshackle in comparison with this opulent display of Victoria and Albert’s devotion to art and culture.
The V&A, the Natural History Museum and Science Museum compete in both grandeur and the impressiveness of their collections. The newly designed pedestrian-friendly Exhibition Road with it’s diagonally striped paving sweeps up towards Hyde Park and of course there is the elegant curve of the very un-English Royal Albert Hall which always takes me by surprise, peering out from between enormous red brick mansion houses. This area almost feels to grandiose for London, too planned, it feels more like it should perhaps be in Vienna.
The Royal Albert Hall is beautiful inside, all red and gold and surprisingly cosy. We had a loggia box, a small box of eight seats just above the stalls. For such a large venue it is amazing how intimate it actually feels.
I didn’t have any preconceptions of the circus at all and didn’t really know what to expect. I’m not sure if this is true just to Kooza or to all of the circus’ performances, but last night was a very traditional circus. It was back to basics: there were clowns and acrobats, bicycle riding tightrope walkers, trapeze artists and unicyclists, stilt-walkers and magicians, all set to dramatic music.
The troupe is made up from artists from all around the world and one of my favourite acts was the Mongolian contortionists. Three women dressed in gold catsuits, so limber that it was at times impossible to tell which way up the artists were, back to front or upside down. It was hard to see where one woman ended and another one started.
There were also of course death defying stunts and the most impressive was the wheel of death – two metal wheels powered by two acrobats who were jumping and spinning around them, giving true edge of your seat excitement. (I notice on their website that they are recruiting for wheel of death artists so if you fancy a change in career…?)
I came out of the show feeling excited and stimulated. I’d had a bit of a stressful and disappointing week one way or another and it was a real reminder of the restorative power of culture.
I would heartily recommend anyone to see this show, it was just fantastic and one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. To witness what people can do with that level of dedication and belief is awe-inspiring and I felt rather envious as it must be such an incredibly rewarding and satisfying profession.