Alegria is one of Cirque du Soleil’s longest-standing shows and, indeed, was the first that I saw at the Royal Albert Hall back in the 1990s. Its reimagining for the 21st century is no less spectacular but seems to have lost some of its soul. Cirque’s storylines are always a little baffling, but the undoubtedly spectacular acts in this new iteration do nothing or little to help drive any narrative.
The first fifteen minutes are, for me, wasted and I could have done without it, especially the somewhat irritating rabble that appear periodically, and for no apparent reason, throughout the show. Once the acts start, though, you’re instantly transported to a world of awe, wonder and disbelief. As always, there are acts that resonate more; the opening ensemble bouncing and balancing on bamboo sticks (and each other) is spectacular, as are all the aerial acts. It’s the ‘ground’ acts that deliver less of a punch.
My abiding memory from the original production was Slava’s Snow Show, which went on to be a production in its own right. Cirque’s clowns have always been divisive – you either love them or hate them – but somehow Slava managed to transcend the division because of his beguiling pathos. The current clowning cohorts won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and do, on occasion, maybe outstay their welcome. Their reimagining of the ‘snow show’ doesn’t quite evoke the childlike sense of magic that Slava managed, but it is, nonetheless, a beautiful and enchanting scene that delights young and old alike.
The second half belongs to the big-hitters – a spectacular trampoline act with some breath-taking tumbling, and a wonderful trapeze act that almost defies gravity. I think Cirque should have stuck to the adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”