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Aerial Acrobatics In Latest Cirque Show
With dozens of Cirque Du Soleil shows on offer around the world, Varekai is the latest production to tour the UK - but is the performance still as special with the acrobatic company stretching itself so far?
Enter the mysterious world of Cirque Du Soleil in Varekai
This is the first UK arena tour for an updated version of Varekai. Set in an enchanted forest, the tour reached Birmingham for its stop-off at Genting Arena, next to the NEC, where it is performed from March 1 to 5 and then continues in the Midlands at Nottingham Motorpoint Arena from March 8 to 12.
Varekai (meaning "wherever" in the Romany language of the gypsies) is set in a mysterious world in the style of Avatar, where huge bamboo poles and a tree top walkway grace the stage. From this backdrop emerges a cavalcade of extraordinary characters in vibrant costumes.
It's a gentle comedic start to warm up the audience with tomfoolery from the clown characters in the cast. Just when it starts to get a little tiresome and you wonder where this is going, the whole show explodes into the Cirque that audiences around the world have come to know and love.
Aerial Straps is one of the routines in Varekai
A solitary young man with wings falls from high above, landing on the stage like a mythical god falling from the sky in a Greek tragedy. This section is aptly called the Flight of Icarus.
The new arrival causes a stir among the assortment of fantastical characters, who believe this all white figure with broken wings is dead. They wrap him up in a net and start to hoist him back up to the roof.but he suddenly bursts into life with a staggering aerial acrobatic routine that is jaw-dropping.
It's a dramatic highlight to kick off the show and unbelievable when you realise that the artists is hanging above the stage (with no net) at various points by just a thread. He's superbly agile and strong, contorting in the net that holds him captive in a beautifully artistic fashion.
This is the skill that makes the Cirque troupe so special and director Dominic Champagne has caught everyone's attention. He has plenty more where that came from as the audience is led through a journey with Icarus through a strange, colourful land to eventually find love.
The Icarus flying act in Varekai
Cirque Du Soleil likes to bring an air of romantism and escape, as seen in previous shows in Birmingham including Alegria in 2012 and Delirium in 2007.
Within the hidden forest, the audience finds acrobatic delights around every corner, interceded by comedy sections that play with unsuspecting members of the audience. A scene where a singer is constantly chasing around the arena to be in the spotlight is simple yet hugely effective and hilarious.
But it's the artistic circus and acrobatic wonders performed by former gymnasts and athletes that everyone is really here to see and they don't disappoint.
Accompanied by a soundtrack of world music by a live band and singers, the show moves between acts of agile wonder. There isn't really much of a story, but it doesn't matter.
There's a baton twirling fiend, a group of acrobats dressed like superheroes who tumble fast and ferociously in unbelievable unity, and a series of acrobats hurled high into the air from Russian swings, to name a few.
An array of wonderful characters feature in Varekai
It's the aerial work that shines the most though. There's plenty of extravagance drawing the eyes to the skies, particularly a scene where two performers using only wrist straps do a spectacular synchronised routine.
Along with these fearless visions, there is also a touch of sentimentality and beauty. A miniature hot air balloon floats around the arena projecting images of doves flying while there is the elegance of a demale acrobat balancing in various precarious positions while shimmering in a sparkling leotard during a romantic section between her and Icarus.
Cirque du Soleil may have spread its wings far and wide with more than 1,300 performing artists in nearly 50 different countries but it's refreshing to see that it isn't cutting back on quality. The achievement of a production like Varekai is that the cast make their death-defying stunts looks so easy and effortless.
Varekai has all the flamboyant style, comedy and jaw-dropping acrobatic stunts that have made Cirque Du Soleil such a renowned name worldwide. It's another mesmerising, distinctive and unforgettable show.