Many contemporary circus groups sell themselves as the anti-Cirque du Soleil, the international entertainment juggernaut standing as a symbol of slick, some would say soulless, spectacle. And the Canadian company certainly trades in spectacle. Who else has the capacity to create a vast waterfall the height of the Albert Hall, on which giant images and symbols magically appear? And yes it is slick, although it masks the machine-like workings with visual whimsy and a dressing-up box aesthetic. Luzia’s theme is, broadly, Mexico, with no plot as such but a palette of saturated colours and inspirations from Aztec gods to magical realism to football (in the form of a mighty impressive display of keepy-uppy).
On such a grand scale, there’s inevitably a level of generic anonymity, here backed by Mexican-flavoured world muzak and a bit too much clown filler. But Luzia is one of the company’s stronger shows and also brings surprises and engaging, tongue-in-cheek characters: a scene of old-school movie glamour with handstander Ugo Laffolay playing a lifeguard in a retro swimming pool, and a man dressed in a lucha libre wrestling mask on a giant swing looping the full 360. There’s individual artistry, too. Two graceful women on cyr wheels (like doing cartwheels inside a giant hula hoop) have a dreamy lyricism that makes their act like an extension of emotion rather than a demonstration of skill.
Most joyfully awesome to witness is the swing-to-swing: two huge swinging platforms that acrobats launch themselves between, twirling, twisting or just seemingly floating, suspended high in the sky. This is the effortless, heart-stopping skill you go to see Cirque for – the times when bigger really is better.