Making their annual return to the Royal Albert Hall, Cirque du Soleil resurrect one of their older shows and give it a new spin.

In its original form, Alegría: In a New Light first saw daylight thirty years ago and came with a mission statement of “A baroque ode to the energy, grace and power of youth.” The latest version sticks true to its original purpose, filling the hall with a vibrant atmosphere.

This is not your usual year for the Canadian company. It is still feeling the after effects of the pandemic during which it laid off most of its staff via Zoom. New shows like Mad Apple in Las Vegas and Echo at Grand Chapiteau are coming through while reports last September suggested that the West End’s Saville Theatre is being eyed as a possible permanent UK base.

Quite what all this means for the Royal Albert Hall shows is unknown, so let’s enjoy them while we can. Alegría (Spanish for “joy”) isn’t a perfect show by this billion-dollar enterprises’ high standards but packs in more than a few surprises. The biggest of these is that the clown routines from Pablo Bermejo and Pablo Gomis Lopez aren’t a complete waste of time. The sad-sack antics and baby talk from the “philosophers of absurdity” are this time around given an existential meta-twist: looking at the audience, they cry out “Why?” as if reading all our minds.

The international cast are - as ever - superbly talented. Dressed in costumes that almost warrant the ticket prices on their own, they are pulled from all corners of the globe to entertain and amuse to the highest order. A X-shaped power track lifts up a series of acrobats who twist and flip as if their lives depended on it. A pair of agile Samoans juggle fiery knives. With only a net to save them from the merciless effects of gravity, the finale sees a breathtaking troupe of overhead high-flying trapeze artists take to the air.

At some point, a snowstorm falls around us. It’s an oasis of calm mirroring the icy conditions outside and a handy reminder of how, even thirty years down the line, director Franco Dragone and director of creation Gilles Ste-Croix can effortlessly switch from the frenetic to the thought-provoking and provide mental fodder for both the inner child and the real children in the audience.

Alegría continues at the Royal Albert Hall until 3 March.

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