On Friday I was to realize an ambition. I was to correct a serious omission in my collection of experiences and visit the Royal Albert Hall for the first time. We were off to see the Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai production. I’m not sure which I was more excited about, seeing a Cirque du Soleil show or seeing the inside of the Royal Albert Hall. Unusually, I was quite relaxed about this trip into London (which I normally dislike) because we were being ferried there and back by coach; not something with which I am particularly familiar but which promised to be less stressful than any of the alternatives, and so it turned out.
Carol and I popped in to our local Waitrose for a picnic supper (a sushi box for two and a bottle of vino blanco complete with nice easy screw cap closure and plastic glasses) and off we went to join the coach in MK. Being a Friday late afternoon, traffic was a little heavy but the slow crawl just made it easier to eat and drink the wine without the need to resort to a bib. Just sit back, relax, natter, have a picnic and let someone else worry about the traffic, which turning to take and which lane to be in. Great! We did get there a little too early and had some trouble finding a coffee house to lose an hour but we managed in the end. Given that I would think there would be a relatively constant captive audience of homeless Royal Albert Hall goers, I was surprised we didn’t find a relaxing establishment a little closer. Maybe there is one and we happened to choose the wrong direction for our search.
After a quick doppio, in we went to find our seats in the highest seating row of all, immediately beneath the standing room area. Beware: the rows of seats are very steeply tiered and are neither for the faint-hearted nor for vertigo sufferers. Looking down from our considerable height on the aerial acts beneath brought an interesting dimension to the performance and averted any potential neck pain that could have been caused caused by staring up to see. Unfortunately, we were very much on the side of the auditorium (if, that is, one can talk about a side in an essentially circular space) and occasionally had our retinas welded firmly in place by spotlights shining upwards at the aerial routines from the opposite side. Nonetheless, we were all very impressed and enjoyed the show tremendously.
Cirque du Soleil has certainly taken the traditional circus format and shaken it by the scruff of the neck to produce something altogether more thrilling and entertaining. Now, I’d suggest not thinking “circus” but, instead, think “entertainment”. The format is essentially an updated one of sets of acrobats and clowns performing in originally designed costumes to original music. The acrobats make Olympic gymnasts look like amateurs. (Hey, wait a minute …) Talk about “nailing a landing”; these folks don’t waver a centimetre. Even the changeovers are slickly performed. Most spectacular in my view, were the aerial stunts, despite persistent spotlight after-images. Flying around the Royal Albert Hall on straps looked like great fun, if you have a strong stomach.
The show was tremendous. I think I expected the interior of the Royal Albert Hall to look a little more impressive, though.