Cirque du Soleil: Alegria (2024)

n.b. Not our view

Suitable for all except coulrophobes
Royal Albert Hall
Couldn’t spoil it if I wanted to

My girlfriend really wanted to go to see Cirque du Soleil, my aunt gets discount tickets to these things and I went because of statements one and two. Prior to going, in my head Cirque du Soleil is a musical with no story set to whatever music the one you’re seeing is set to and featuring people prancing around; a really shit musical with novelty acts, basically. I was braced to hate it but pleased to spend date night with a nice dinner at The Royal Albert Hall.

I first went to The Royal Albert Hall with my secondary school, an event which will forever stick in my mind because I had my first ever double Big Mac. I think we saw the Proms afterwards. I didn’t check whether the McDonald’s is still there (or if double Big Macs are still a thing) because we’d booked the in-house Italian. Two cocktails in and the prospect of two hours trying to find something to like about Cirque du Soleil seemed less daunting.

The second time I went to The Royal Albert Hall was to see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, with The London Philharmonic Orchestra performing the score live. It was good but the screen was too small and the woman behind me kept kneeing my seat, and then become indignant when I told her to stop. The third time I went was to watch live boxing and it was awesome. A perfect venue for the sport: no bad views, excellent atmosphere and plenty of bars and toilets.

I’m going to fess up to my ignorance here; having never really given it much thought because I had no intention of ever going, I thought Cirque du Soleil meant Circle of the Sun. At dinner my girlfriend said she couldn’t wait because she’d never been to the circus before. What? Circus? Nobody told me it’s a fucking circus.

Now, I always thought I loved going to see Zippo’s Circus as a little boy when they parked up on Blackheath. One day I was reminiscing about those lovely childhood experiences and my Mum snorted. “Are you kidding? Every year you used to beg me to take you to that bloody thing and every year you’d break down in tears when the clowns came out and scream to go home. I don’t know why I kept falling for it.”

Am I scared of clowns? It wasn’t a phobia that had ever really had opportunity to bother me as an adult. I’ve seen Stephen King’s IT, but that’s a film. Does Cirque du Soleil have clowns? I’d be in the same room as them, could they reach me? I ordered another cocktail which arrived mercifully quickly. Impeccable service.

I tentatively, and slightly wobbly, went to my seat. What an absolute beast of a venue The Royal Albert Hall is, cleverly used its space can be intimate or awe inspiring. Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria immediately demanded respect with its set design and clever use of space. I was impressed.

Cirque du Soleil’s set up, I was to discover, is basically circus acts of increasing skill and thrill, interspersed with some amusing clowns of whom I was not scared, they were hilarious and crucially very far away, all set to music. Hosted by a ringleader who looked like the bastard son of Willy Wonka and the Joker, and despite admiring the technical aspects, the first act did not impress me. I spent most of it wondering how injured they’d get if they fell until I saw the wires (I have poor eyesight).

I didn’t know what was coming, though.

Our seats - not ringside but pretty spectacular

Straight up, I was ensconced after one man used his ring to entertain thousands, and that was pretty early on. It’s hard to describe but essentially he span around the stage in a giant metal circle, not his anus, and it was somehow magical. I turned to my girlfriend and she gave me an “aww, I knew you were going to like this”, look. I’m not going to describe all the acts because it would be pointless, they’re best seen in person, and by the end I was pretty smashed.

Cirque du Soleil: Alegria was a bit of every kind of entertainment, I was thrilled, amused, wowed, dare I say moved and most of all, bloody surprised. If my Mrs says she wants to go to another one, I’m not even going to feign disinterest (unless it clashes with boxing). I’ve even come up with an idea for a theme- Cirque du Soleil: Interview with the Vampire.

A wonderful show, evening, and now I know I’m not scared of clowns. Oh and I am completely in love with The Royal Albert Hall, too.


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