Like Prospero’s isle, the Royal Albert Hall is full of strange noises. Many of them emanate from the all-female rock band crashing out power chords like a soundtrack to Armageddon. Loosely riffing around the theme of Shakespeare’s swansong, The Tempest, the latest Cirque du Soleil show delivers thrills, spills and spectacle in intermittent bursts.
A man with a large lizard tail who appears to be a cross between Caliban and Ariel wriggles around the stage showing off his magnificent appendage. The action is initiated by the female magician Prospera who subsequently fades into the background. It is just one of the anomalies of this well presented but half baked show. For the rest, it is business as usual with one act following another punctuated by dance routines and some unspeakably awful clowning.
The costumes are works of art in themselves, even if some of them are blatantly provocative. For a show that defines itself as a feminist call to arms it is sexist beyond belief. The giant water bowl seems to exist purely for ‘Miranda’ in a white bikini to immerse herself and then perform a balancing act in material that clings to every contour. And I lost count how many times the female aerialists performed the splits high above our heads.
The second half redresses the balance a little with the teeterboard boys stripped to the waist like high-flying Chippendales. The real showstopper is, ironically, the quietest. Accompanied only by the sound of amplified breathing the Balance Goddess creates an enormous structure of long sticks. It is like watching someone construct a house of cards horizontally. For all the sturm und drang of the rest of the evening, it is this moment that lingers long afterwards.