A Night At The Cirque

“The show started at 7:30!” 

Lulus words were strained through exhausted pipes and met with coughs all around as we boosted toward the grandly lit entrance of Royal Albert Hall. It was sometime after 7:30.

The hall was a crown jewel in any performance exhibit, playing there was akin to Yankee stadium. Kensington is not quite used to the sight of four minimum wage immigrants slicing through their tempered walkways and causing ruckus. Dodging the dolls and octogenarians was exercise enough, we had the added fun of avoiding the scolding glances of revellers who were accustomed to the “stop and smell the roses” mentality— a mentality we weren’t in the pay grade for. As we got closer and closer to the impressive structure the adrenaline was beginning to fade and all that remained was the hope we weren’t too late to enter the spectacle driven insanity that lay before us. 

  Pushing through the heavy duty doors, our wheezing and puffing was immediately contrasted with the stunning silence that enveloped the lobby. The only people in the foyer were the now relaxing ushers sprawled out in the lounges around us. Above them was a canvas painting, “Amaluna” scrawled out artfully with Cirque du Soleil printed clearly below it—at least we found the right place. An odd silence blanketed the entrances that were surely bustling only a few minutes (editors note: more than a few..) earlier— the heavy percussions were already vibrating the stoic hall walls beyond the lobby. 

 One usher lifted his head to give a half cocked view of our tickets. He chuckled to himself before sliding his bony finger toward the stairs. We clamoured up step-by-step to the top level. As we walked through the highest entrance into the darkened arena we were greeted silently yet excitedly by a lonesome young usher. Part sign language and part whisper, he explained the rules of the house before inviting us to enjoy the show. Looking around confirmed the suspicions, not another soul was watching from our budget level. 

It’s surreal looking down upon it, Cirque du Soleil have a strong history with incendiary acrobatics, we had the eagle eye view. There was a small circular goblet pool center stage— connected to a large moving circular stage surrounding it. Every movement was choreographed to a science, the whole story told without a lick of dialogue, the true live action silent film. The lighting danced with the performers around the stage, ricocheting onto the dome roof only feet above us. The orchestral drum beats were shooting through my fingertips, as I tightened my grip to the railing—the same railings had felt the vibrations of legends for decades. The cheapest seats in the house had certainly offered a more, fly on the wall perspective. I couldn’t help but imagine the allegorical thoughts of being too close to something, but those thoughts were washed away by the second act. 

 As the show dazzled with increasing bravado my eyes dashed around the scattered crowd below us— Between the mousey symphony of camera shutters bouncing across the chamber walls. To the digitised starry sky in the arena below us. There’s almost a necessity to document every aspect of every experience, like the old saying goes, if you go to a place and don’t provide a documentary—did it really happen? Ah, it was nights like this that made me miss the Alamo Draft House. 


Since we had missed the first ten minutes or so, intermission snuck up on us all, the stage darkened and the blinding lights came up. The group took turns looking at each other with a certain thirst in the eye. As we were making our way downstairs to liquor up we were all approached by another usher who offered us free upgrades in seating—being minimum wage workers we leapt at the chance, even if it just meant an actual seat to sit on. “Well it is the final week” he began, he didn’t need to sell ice to the eskimos. We abandoned all hope of navigating the maze halls of Royal Albert and went straight to our new seats. We were right next to the stage, you could hear the sweat droplets bounce.

 A hustle that would annoy the ones surrounding us who paid full price, we had first class seats for a Groupon price. It quickly turned from a marionette to a goddamn IMAX. There were no distractions here, no starry phone lights or camera shutters—the live music was barreling through it all. As the lights dimmed once more we each looked at each other with varying degrees of anticipation before the show leapt back into full swing. 

 It’s strange coming to a show at the end of its run, the same inevitable feeling of weariness hung in the galleries. Being up close to the action meant it wasn’t just colourful blurs doing incredible feats of human endurance, each performer had a story beaming through every move. Their diligence was extraordinary and yet, they were just… having fun. They’d occasionally gaze a little longer at one another after a sequence, a small smile cracking underneath their rehearsed mannerisms. Heh, maybe I was injecting my own celluloid riddled naivety into what was probably a recited gaze— but the chemistry was undeniable. They weren’t putting it on the grand production line for the opening night audience, they were jovially telling themselves the story like a group of old friends at the pub as the last call tolls, we were just invited.

 It reminded me of the end of my first job in a twisted way. I worked at a Blockbuster for most of my formative years. The library for cinephiles. I remember trying to delay the inevitable battering that streaming was about to unleash—exercises in futility were really mostly the only workouts I got back then. It’s a hard truth to face, when something comes to it’s natural conclusion. Yet, a few weeks before we shut up shop for good, when the chips had fallen and the writing was already taken off the wall, there was a strange relief that washed over. Letting go of the wheel and embracing the loss of control. Like the Cirque performers we continued to do our diligent duties, performing for the customers and keeping the machine going. Once the idea of changing the outcome was out the window, it became fun, each shift was another chance to savour the stories we experienced. Riding the bastard until the wheels fell off. I fell in love for the first time there (ha love at 14 is such a seedling of a thing is it not), I saw my first Tarantino movie, discovered the voices and artists that would go on to paint the foreground of the world to be. The relationships, the rough patches, the highs and lows, all coming to one foreseeable end—and at least it was an ending.

 The show was a marvel to watch, even if half the story was lost on me while my gaze went to the performers, imagining the relationships that may have formed, friendships built and hearts broken all throughout their run at the Royal Albert. It took me a solid moment of time before I realised the lights had come up and the show was over. 

We each grabbed a slightly bent cigarette from our last pack and sparked up on equal grounding with the tuxedo crowds around us. One of us, I cannot remember for the life of me whom said what we were all thinking, “So, Pub?” We didn’t need an answer. We squeezed through the crowds as they waited for Taxis and Uber’s and we began the rhythmic walk back to the underground.

 There was a carpeting of brochures for the show all over the floor near the entrance and on the path to the station, “Cirque Du Soleil: Founded in Canada” printed under each byline.. Strange old world…I always thought they were from France.