* Prices may differ from that shown
Some might never have been in a big top before, but tonight, the 'Grand Chapiteau' looming over them in the moonlit sky is the first thing they see as they pull off the motorway, each discussing their different expectations of the evening...
As they make their way across the busy car park, the dark, velvet blue sky glistens serenely above, adorned with twinkling stars and the weight of the full harvest moon; connotations of magic and wizardry...
For some it would transport them back to their childhood years and their fascination with stories such as Enid Blyton's 'Galliano's Circus', for others, it would be their childhood memory of the circus. Yes, seeing Cirque Du Soleil for the first time is a big deal; many of those in this Manchester audience may never have seen a circus before, except for the one at Blackpool Tower perhaps, but red noses and squirting flowers were somehow not to be expected tonight.
Indeed, Cirque Du Soleil is now the world's most famous travelling circus, and its fame and reputation do not precede it without good reason. This show seems to affect people like no other; whatever walk of life they're from, Cirque Du Soleil leaves people with only superlatives, and little room for anything else, in their jaw-dropped mouths - 'most awesome, most amazing...most speechless I've ever been'.
While people are still taking their seats, there is movement on the stage as characters in spectacular costumes crawl towards their audience, and it isn't long before a musical accompaniment dawns upon the ears of the crowd, and 'Varekai' begins...
First, the audience have the pleasure of meeting 'The Skywatcher', a great and mad inventor whose antics prove highly amusing; the way in which these performers are able to communicate so effectively with the entire world using little else besides mumbles and physical expression is highly impressive.
Along the way of this fascinating journey, the audience are also introduced to many other wondrous characters, including 'Icarus', whose stunning aerial routine leaves their hearts racing and palms sore from clapping, and the fantastically funny clowns who have replaced big red shoes with sponge stilettos, and easily have the audience roaring with laughter.
Indeed, the costumes, as designed by 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' costume creator Eiko Ishioka, are stunning and add much glamour and panache to the stage of the Grand Chapiteau, and yet even without the aid of beautiful costumes and intricate lighting, this show would be something to behold.
The 'Solo on Crutches' is simply awe-inspiring, along with the 'Aerial Hoop' performance, which is the cause of many gasps amongst the audience. The 'Aerial Straps', a truly breath-taking feat, is performed by the UK-born 'Atherton' twins (which gained them an extra enthusiastic applause from their home crowd), while the 'Water Meteors', three very young yet already highly skilled acrobats, spin and throw ropes with metal 'meteors' on the end while performing complex acrobatics at the same time, and still managing to catch their ropes at the end of it all!
Each performs to what comprises an incredibly articulate catalogue of music, which compliments the show's dramatic atmosphere and magical climate beautifully: These acts evoke a range of emotions, from awe, to fear, and finally thrill and joyous exuberance which leave such an impression on the spirit as can never, I fear, be un-etched.
Not least guilty of this was the spectacular finale to the show, provided by the 'Russian Swings'. As the acrobats are launched from swing to swing, one, two at a time, to great heights and onto material drapes behind them, the precision, artistry and of course the bravery of these acts are all reaffirmed, even as the artists themselves seem so nonchalant about what they are achieving before our eyes.
Seeing may well be believing, and yet the uncertainty left lingering on the lips of those who see this show isn't scepticism or doubt, but rather simply 'how?'
Tickets for this show are quite expensive. We were lucky enough to go on press night, which included complimentary drink and pop corn (very nice!) and it also meant that we got to see top celebrities such as Roy Cropper from Corrie, however, I would happily pay to see this show too; when you think of the overheads they must have to produce such entertainment, and the show which the audience are able to see, the tickets are really quite cheap considering!
However, for those who can't rush to the expense, the show can be bought also on DVD, although I haven't seen it myself, but have read many good reviews.
Usually I am not a huge fan of Cirque Du Soleil. There shows are full of mediocre performers, the actual shows are too similar to each other and their work ethics are 'interesting' to say the least. That said I got free tickets to see Varekai and I never turn down a free show.
My seats were good seats, in the front stalls, not too far to one side so I had a great view of the stage. It was an interesting stage - I liked the pole at the background.
It started off quite badly. I thought I was in for a long hour and a half. The first clown (if you can call him that) was not funny, was long winded and uninteresting. However things started to improve.
A review of the acts:
Aerial Hoop - was good. She certainly was skilled on it and it was interesting to watch.
Aerial Straps - Was brilliant, the 2 men were very technical yet also mesmorising to watch. Their strength and agility was beautiful.
Clowns - The girl and the guy clowns had me wetting myself with laughter, which was a very nice shock!
'Flight of the Icarus' : webbing: Let's glaze over this? It was quite long and tedious.
Georgian Dance - Interesting, nicely done and not too long.
Handbalancing - Very bendy lady! Nicely performed.
Icarian Games/Risley - Spectacular! So rare to see traditional group circus skills in contemporary circus. They were fantastic! The actual skill level was amazing, it was flawlessly performed and mesmorising. Worth going to see for just this act alone.
Juggling - Again let's glaze over this? Mediocre at best. Simple skills but well executed.
Russian Swing - Pretty much same comment as I put for the Risley. Beautifully done, great ending act. Fantastic skills although perhaps not quite as amazing as the Risley. Still nice to see it performed and had great energy levels.
Triple Trapeze - Was good, well done. I'm not a huge fan of static trapeze but I can appreciate it was a good skill level, and worked well.
Meteors - I don't really agree with children performing in such a huge performance, but personal ethics behind... it was OK. The children dropped a bit, but their acrobatic skills were very high.
As for the Links and the story line, it was mediocre.
For a Cirque Du Soliel show though, definately the best one I have seen. And worth going for the Risley and Russian Swings alone. Perhaps not quite worth the £40 - 60 attached to see it though.