See Cirque’s Alegría in a Whole New Light

Explore a whimsical world of characters, costumes and pure escapism in Cirque du Soleil's latest masterpiece

Explore a whimsical world of characters, costumes and pure escapism in Cirque du Soleil’s latest masterpiece

Alegría in a New Light, Cirque de Soleil’s first Canadian show ‘post-pandemique’, is an epic production with 53 performers from 19 different countries. Forget the awe-inspiring acrobatics on stage, even the logistics of organizing a show like this during COVID is pretty mind-boggling. 

Alegría in a New Light is a reinterpretation of an iconic 1994 show, redone in 2019, and (according to the official plot synopsis) it is set: “At the heart of a kingdom that has lost its king, Alegría witnesses the power struggle at play between the old order and a new movement yearning for hope and renewal.”

Cirque du SoleilCirque du SoleilWe’ve all been yearning for a little bit of hope and renewal recently. For much of the audience, myself included, this was the first big scale event attended in a while. Once the initial nerves at being in the Big Top amongst 2,600 people had abated, I started to enjoy the buzzy anticipation of the show starting.  

We were seated in the round with the stage dominated by a spiked crown and what I initially thought was a golden snake spinning from the ground. My friend keeps telling me it’s a staff, not a snake, but I’m enjoying it anyway. This becomes somewhat of a theme for me during the shownot being entirely sure what is happening, but joyfully watching it all unfold anyway. Did I follow the plot of Alegría? No. Did it matter? Absolutely not.

Things start off slowly with a gaggle of eccentrically-dressed characters wandering on and off stage as Mr. Fleur, the king’s fool, vies for the crown. At least, I think that was what’s happening as they spoke gibberish (aka ‘cirquish’ which is a mixture of English, French and Spanish), the house lights were up, and I was still 100 percent convinced the golden ‘snake’ was an integral part of the storyline. 

Cirque du SoleilCirque du SoleilJust as I began to wonder how I would know when it started properly, the lights went down and incredible vocals of Spanish singer Irene Ruiz Martin rang through the tent. Later, she was joined by the equally-stunning sound of Brazilian singer Cassia Raquel and the live band, who absolutely rocked it, bringing an extra emotional dimension to the show. 

This would have been the point on a flight where the captain tells us to fasten our seatbelts as what followed was two hours of such incredible athleticism and artistry, all I could do was sit in slack-jawed wonder, watching almost superhuman feats unfold, and finally admitting that, yes, it was a magic staff and not a snake after all.

The show launched straight into the action with acro poles, which are like some kind of extreme aerial ballet, that saw the performers jumping and flipping through the air (there are probably more technical names), and landing on wobbly poles. These airborne acrobats were showcasing such an incredible amount of strength, agility and sheer trust in each other that it made me tear up when I read that the performers are mainly from Russia and Ukraine. 

Maintaining the emotional energy, there was a certain unhinged vibe to the German wheel as Canadian Frederic Lemieux-Cormier propelled himself across the stage, ramping it up with rapid movements accompanied by live music. Cirque costumes are amazing, and the ones for this section were giving off 1980s Mad Max/Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys’ video vibes as the performers surged across the stage. 

Cirque du SoleilCirque du SoleilHawaiian fire king One Tovo literally lit up the stage with a beaming smile and incredible fire tricksI’ve never seen anyone look so happy to juggle, eat and play with fire and, accompanied by Australian Ben Todd on drums, things started to feel like the most metal of metal gigs. 

Each element of the show was a stand out performance, from Chinese hula hooper Yan ‘Joann’ Zhuang’s ever escalating acrobatics with spinning hoops to the intense control of the ‘powertrack’ performers careering down the trampoline concourse and stopping short of landing in the audience.

Throughout the show, Spanish clowns Pablo Bermejo Medina and Pablo Gomis Lopez provided comic relief from the high-octane, edge-of-seat performances, with plenty of visual adult humour, ambiguity around their relationship, and an epic blizzard scene that genuinely blew the audience away. 

Cirque du SoleilCirque du SoleilAlegría means joy in Spanish. Maybe it’s because we’ve been mainly stuck at home for two years and have forgotten about the unabashed joy of live music, theatre, comedy and spectacle but there was something emotionally charged about listening to the collective gasps of the crowd. I was barely breathing by the time we got to the female hand-to-hand duo, elevating effortlessly into the air using just body strength, the romantic trapeze kiss, the swinging lanterns of the tableau and the final seemingly death-defying flying trapeze. 

Cirque has once again created a whimsical world of strange characters, ethereal music, fantastic costumes and pure escapism. But they have also created a utopian little world where women lift up other women, Russian and Ukrainian folks keep each other safe, and light triumphs over darkness. In a world full of ambiguity, there are only a few absolutes and these are that Alegría is absolutely magical and worth a watch.

Performances until June 25th; Tickets online