Mexico is too often reduced to cerveza and tequila, bandidos, big hats and even bigger cacti. Billed as ‘A waking Dream of Mexico’ Luzia can be commended for avoiding most of the usual cliches associated with Tijuana and beyond.
As always with Cirque du Soleil shows, the theme is simply a frame on which to hang the top dressing. Decorative in both costume and sets, the most incorporated circus on the planet is hardly circus at all now, more a pretty pageant with a handful of acts tossed in, a very loud musical score and the worst clowns known to humanity.
Luzia is fresh and invigorating after the disappointments of the last few shows. The corporate soullessness that has anaesthetised many productions has been replaced by something approaching joy.
The revolving stage and giant treadmills on which many of the acts are performed keep it moving. Even with a few filler moments like an over-long clowning sequence involving Fool Koller issuing instructions to the audience through a referee’s whistle there is a locomotive rhythm to the show that is compelling.
Beautifully designed with a huge petalled disc at the rear representing the sun and the moon and orange marigolds carpeting the edge of the stage, Luzia also benefits from a superb band of musicians. It opens with a guitarist providing a simple, almost mournful low key intro before exploding into a joyful rush of Mexicali pop.
The puppets work well with the exotic costumes – an enormous metallic horse canters around the stage behind a girl with huge butterfly wings. A jaguar shares the waterhole with a tattooed aerialist – half Mowgli/half rock star – in a moment of sublime connection between man and (puppet) beast.
Two street kids playing keepy uppy is an engaging idea, allowing a little reality to ballast the fantasy, especially when one of them goes into a breakdancing spin while maintaining absolute control of the ball through centrifugal force.
The curtain of rain used throughout sometimes has a mind of its own – mischievously dodging around acts and most impressively deployed during the act with two Cyr hoops and aerialist, which adds a watery aesthetic as well as increasing the risk. Later, the waterfall of rain becomes a moving screen for ethereal projections of birds, fish and exotic designs.
The first really breathtaking act is the simplest – a classic Mexican masked wrestler figure on a swing who rises higher and higher until he does a complete 360 degrees virtually grazing the roof of the Albert Hall.
As for the male contortionist, he bends himself into positions that imply he has either a) a spine made of rubber or b) no internal organs.
The Swing to Swing climax is spectacular and thrilling. Performers leap across from two fairground swing boats with increasingly complex and dangerous moves. The moment when two girls crossed over in mid air brought a collective gasp from the audience. Now that’s what I call a true circus moment.