>alegria by cirque du soleil

>reviewed by arthur kok

>date: 28 feb 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: the grand chapiteau
>rating: ****

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


Around: The audience expectantly looking in. The Ring: The grotesque, the gilded, the great and the glum. The surrealistic ride began with men taking off into the air aided by extra strength rubber bands (think last year's VH1 Fashion Awards or Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider and you get the idea). These were joined by precision gymnasts who flipped and rolled in perfect synchrony, a firebrand twirler who had the magnetism of The Rock and red-nosed 'angels' who executed nail-biting trapeze on Russian bars.

>>'The grotesque, the gilded, the great and the glum.'

The peerless moment for me began when a swanlike girl stepped centre-stage. Her second skin was yellow-gold lurex lovingly hand-painted and encrusted with jewels. With fluid ease, she bewitched her ribbon and hoops, executing a form of rhythmic gymnastics best described as otherworldly. Between leaps, spins and rolls, this ethereal pixie demonstrated a mind-blowing mastery of the apparatus while gracefully twisting her limbs in every imaginable direction. A perfect ten from this Olympic panellist wannabe!

The mesmerising 'look-what-I-can-do' segments were wonderfully offset with bumbling, consciously unconscious clown acts. There was the Christopher Loyd dead ringer, the Slava Snow Show Fatman and the Retractable Man in the Emerald Coat. Only these had the ability to pull off poignant and emotionally crisp vignettes. While the other acts dazzled with their technical prowess and grace, they seemed one-dimensional in comparison to the pathos, loss, frustration and friendship mimed by the said clowns. Send in the clowns!

I heard someone remark that the ring was smaller than he had imagined. That could mean the made-for-TV Cirque du Soleil specials worked far too well. Yet there is a real difference between what you see on-screen and what you experience under the Grand Chapiteau. For those who are waiting for Central to broadcast the show, or reason that the VCD is a cheap alternative, that is your prerogative. But perhaps there is no better place than a circus where we can rediscover the wonder of 'being there' and resist the numbing effects of technology.