Over the next ten months, Cirque du Soleil will present two new shows in the UK: its first live arena event, Delirium, seen for six dates only on tour in October and, as part of the company’s annual new year season at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Varekai.

With Delirium (pictured), a massive multimedia spectacle specifically tailored for arenas, Cirque du Soleil is venturing into territory usually occupied by rock superstars. Described as “an uproar of sight and sound”, Delirium delivers a multi-sensory experience using holograms, multimedia sound and video imaging as well as physical theatre, dance and music, played out on a 130-foot stage and 540 feet of projection surfaces (the equivalent of four IMAX screens). The spectacle will have six 2007 dates only in the UK: at the MEN Arena, Manchester (8-9 October), Birmingham’s NIA Arena (11-12 October) and Sheffield Hallam FM Arena (13-14 October).

For its twelfth London season, Cirque will return once again to the Royal Albert Hall, presenting Varekai - a more traditional company offering combining drama, acrobatics, aerial acts, dramatic lighting and elaborate set design - for a limited season from 10 January to 3 February 2008.

Taking its name from the Romany gypsy word for "wherever", Varekai is set deep within a magical forest, at the summit of a volcano, in “an extraordinary world, a world where something else is possible, a world called Varekai”. A young man is parachuted into Varekai, and sets off an absurd adventure in the kaleidoscopic world populated by fantastical creatures. According to promotional material, “this production pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to the infinite passion of those whose quest takes them along the path that leads to Varekai”.

Since it was founded by a troupe of street performers in Quebec in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has grown to employ over 3,000 people presenting shows (14 in 2007) seen to date by nearly 60 million people, in more than 100 cities on four continents. The award-winning company’s many previous hits in the UK have included Alegria, Dralion, Quidam and Saltimbanco.

At one point, Cirque du Soleil had plans to build a permanent London home on the site of the derelict Battersea Power Station, where they've previously played to capacity crowds in their "Grand Chapiteau" big top. The Battersea plans were abandoned in December 2001. More recently, they have been named in connection with planned redevelopment of Leicester Square (See The Goss, 24 Mar 2003).

- by Terri Paddock