Question: – What would you get if you crossed the mythical Chinese dragon and lion?
Answer: – A Dralion! (there are no trick questions here.)
Question: – What do you get when you combine song, dance, mime, aerial acrobatics and an accompanying soundtrack that could blow your ears off?
Answer : – The Cirque du Soleil, or Cirque du So-loud (which is what I’ve just re-named them.)
This energetic, vibrant and colourful crowd pleaser appeared at the O2 between 4th– 8th June, which means, if you’re reading this review and didn’t book a ticket, then you just missed out on a show which is a true theatrical spectacle.
In Dralion, Cirque du Soleil incorporate ancient Chinese circus tradition into a more avant-garde, almost big top style format. Maintaining the company’s street entertainer roots in Quebec 30 years ago, Dralion opens with a trio who provide comic relief (and I use the word ‘comic’ loosely here) between the gymnastic shenanigans that make up the show. Think the three stooges, without the violence, or a trio of circus clowns, and you’ve got a pretty good picture of their act.
The elder statesman of the three enters the arena ,without any introduction, to provide a bit of audience warm-up, and then the rest of his little troupe appears, intent on wreaking havoc in the audience – this included polishing a bald man’s head in the front row, and ‘marrying’ a young girl, who happened to be sitting right next to yours truly, then walking her down the auditorium ‘aisle’, whilst audience members threw handfuls of confetti, in what was probably the least weird part of their act.
Audience participation was an integral part of this act, but it soon became clear that one unfortunate audience member, who became the butt of all their jokes, was clearly ‘in on the act’, however this didn’t detract from his entertainment value. In homage to middle aged men everywhere, they also performed what can only be described as the ‘dance of the pot bellies’, ending in the unfortunate demise of one of the trio. Even if you were there, this was as surreal as it sounds.
The acrobatic show that we’d all come to see began in a deafening explosion of music, light and colour. The circus tent, that had draped the rear of the stage, was raised to reveal a massive, metallic, curved wall which served as an acrobatic prop and multi-level stage. The musicians, seated beneath this wall, took their inspiration from Africa, the Middle East, China and India to produce a stunning soundtrack, which successfully fused ethnic style music with Western pop-rock. If this music isn’t available to download, then it should be.
Dralion is a show for our environmentally conscious, multi-ethnic age. The planet is here represented by its four elements – earth, water, air and fire. This makes for stunningly colourful costumes, in ochre (earth), blue (air), green (water) and red (fire), and each earth element has its own segment in the show. We were held enthralled by African tribal drums, Chinese dragons and Lions prancing round the stage and balancing on giant rubber balls, a juggler who somehow managed to break dance at the same time, a woman falling from the roof held only by blue cascading ribbons of cloth, and a man rapidly circling the stage inside two interlocking hoops.
The cast members of Cirque du Soleil proved that human beings are as capable of producing awe-inspiring ‘special effects’ as any mainframe computer. The Cirque du Soleil gymnasts climbed walls like Spiderman and flew through the air like Superman. They spun themselves around in large metallic rings and balanced on one hand, whilst contorting into positions that should be impossible.
As a Cirque du Soleil novice, watching their brand of surreal, comically grotesque, acrobatic mayhem; I’d not hesitate to recommend seeing their show the next time they visit the UK (just take a couple of ear plugs – you have been warned.)