EIGHT days to set up the big top, 65 trucks of equipment, 114 cast and crew, 1000 detachable costume pieces, 6500 Swarovski pearls on the Peacock Goddess dress... even by numbers, Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna is impressive.
Overall, it was an extremely powerful performance, resulting in a well-deserved standing ovation
But figures aside, the most extraordinary thing - that which has captured over 150 million Circus of the Sun spectators worldwide, in every continent save Antarctica - is the sheer spectacle. Just as you think the artists can’t do anything more staggering, the hoops are stacked higher, the trapeze twirls faster and the teeterboard jumps go bolder.
True to form, practically every major circus discipline is represented, and woven into the story via exotic character costumes: from the Moon Goddess on aerial hoop to the Amazons on uneven bars and the acrobatic Icarians.
Story-wise the premise is simple and undemanding: a tumultuous love story with a happy ending (and even a suitor called Romeo), but it doesn’t need to be anything more. A Cirque experience is less about plot, and more about breathtaking stunts that leave you feeling awed - and perhaps slightly inadequate, it has to be said.
Set on a mysterious island, governed by goddesses and guided by cycles of moon, the atmosphere is also superb. Amaluna - taken from the words from ‘mother’ and ‘moon’ - takes femininity as a central theme, with subplots including mother-daughter relationships and the trials and rituals of becoming a woman.
Supposedly, the eyes in a peacock’s tail watch over women throughout the stages in their life - hence the primary blue and green colour scheme. Other influences, according to Tony award-winning director Diane Paulus, include Greek and Norse mythology, The Magic Flute and The Tempest.
On entering, jungle noises echo ethereally - courtesy of 74 speakers placed throughout the amphitheatre - while the music (played by an all-female band) is raw and emotive. Lighting spans ceiling projections to ‘falling stars’ and lit canopies, while leaf-like lanterns and the swirling red fabric finale demonstrate an equally strong attention to props. Even the technicians are acrobats of sorts, sitting atop their black towers attached to a harness.
Cali the juggling lizard acts as a continuous thread between acts; alternately fighter, protector and humorous rascal (beware a popcorn shower if you’re near the front middle).
The ‘clowns’ - Mainha (Miranda’s childhood nanny) and Papulya (Romeo’s manservant) - are the only element whose success I was unsure of. Funny at times - particularly when participating with the audience - yet annoying at others, they seemed to jar with the overall story. Whilst some may appreciate a bit of silly comedy, I found it interrupted the sense of immersion.
My only other qualm? Almost non-existent signposting, leading us to drive around the Trafford Centre’s infinite car parks aimlessly, before being told it was ‘by’ John Lewis. Hint: that’s poetic license, it’s about ten minutes away in yet another car park.
Overall, however, it was an extremely powerful performance, resulting in a well-deserved standing ovation. Since it’s been six years since the last big top appearance in Manchester, catch it while it’s here.
Amaluna is at intu Trafford Centre until 9 October