Kooza (Royal Albert Hall)

Cirque du Soleil return to London with their latest spectacular

It wouldn’t be the start of a new year without the annual visit of Cirque du Soleil to London, bringing their now familiar repertoire of dancers, acrobats and gymnasts in tow.

As the company heads into its fourth decade, their new show Kooza aims to go back to their circus roots, inviting the audience into the mysterious world of the Big Top as seen through the eyes of the Innocent, a childlike figure who falls under the wing of the beguiling Trickster.

Of course, this is all merely an excuse to witness the various acts that follow, all sporting sumptuous costume design and the power to leave the crowd awestruck. A huge revolving pendulum entitled the "Wheel of Death"’ and a high wire act involving two bicycles and a chair perhaps provide the most gasps of amazement but a circus is nothing without its clowns, who are often warmly received to aid in relieving the tension of what goes before, though occasionally outstay their welcome.

From a unicycle double act to hoop manipulation and many more in between, there is something for all ages to admire and enjoy, with the skeleton dance perhaps the greatest indicator of just how much work goes in to creating an all-involving showcase of the arts.

For it is not just the performers that deserve acclaim but also those involved in the stage itself; the set is a wondrous two storey affair upon which the musicians and vocalists provide accompaniment, flanked by a metallic staircase and marvellous fabric canopy that illuminates in all manner of colours depending on the mood contained within the current performance.

The soundtrack will certainly guide you here too, moving seamlessly from an ethereal dreamlike melody in the lighter moments to tunes that derive their inspiration from Hollywood classics and a bombastic drum score as the thrills set in. Indeed, a visual highlight is undoubtedly the casting of the drummer’s shadow upon the red tarpaulin of the Kooza centrepiece as the Wheel of Death is in full swing. The atmosphere is electric and the mood palpable.

Such mastery of the craft is Cirque du Soleil’s strength but also its weakness. A troupe such as this can conjure creativity from the simplest of things so it is with slight disappointment that the set changes are not dealt with as deftly as they could be, with the audience treated to a rather mundane chase sequence and confetti distraction in the first half, a choice that feels laboured and overlong considering the brilliance of the rest of the show.

These criticisms feel churlish however, considering that Kooza is a joy to behold in all other areas, delighting in not only the history of the circus but also the beauty of discovery and the majesty of happening across something for the first time.

If you allow yourself to be transported with the Innocent and relive the wonder of your youth then the night will live long in the memory and be an evening to cherish for years to come.