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Cirque de Soleil certainly has a lot to live up to.

It’s a household name that conjures up scenes of wonderment, extravagance and stunts that you certainly can’t do at home.

With Varekei “Tales of The Forest” on the road – the latest Cirque de Soleil touring show – we stopped by to see if it really is as great as the cult reviews boast.

. . .

As you’d expect, their was an atmosphere thick with anticipation as everyone took their seats in the stands. The show was set in half the arena to ensure the audience had great visibility from all angles which was a wise move from the production team.

Opening with a surrealistic awakening of what looked like wounded angel tangled majestically in a tumbling net, an acrobat swung across the stage and delivered an expressive set of motions to the audience whilst wrapping and unwrapping from his netted cocoon.

A white netted Icarus acrobat opens the cirque de soleil show

The entertainers are works of art in many a sense.

Not only are they poised and incredibly skilled but their costumes are designed to challenge the eye in the same way as the performance is. All over body paint and leotards work in unison with the jungle theme to enhance their bestial movements.

One extraordinary stunt included a poised juggler propelling a devil stick into the air in between back flips whilst bouncing the rod off her body, as naturally as if it were an extension of her own limbs.

Two graceful aerialists showcased outstanding upper body strength by swinging from each other on a single trapeze with a steady magnetism that manipulated gravity and left the audience wide eyed in disbelief.

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When you think ‘Cirque de Soleil’ music is not the first thing that comes to mind.

It’s so often depicted as a visual extravaganza, which it of course is, but the climatic live soundtrack performed with a mix of vocals and instruments engulfed the audience and hypnotised them into a journey through the jungle. Much in the same way a film soundtrack invites you to shed a tear or increase your heart beat on queue.

Interjections of slap-stick comedy from a two piece Magician and Assistant spaced out the high quality acts. These humorous breaks drew intermittent laughter from the crowd and were at their most successful when crowd participation was encouraged (or enforced, as it more often is).

The show could have been improved with a higher ratio of skilled stunts and less strung-out comedy.

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However, the grand finale was a fantastic spectacle and well worth the wait. Two swings hosting a troupe of back flipping performers stole the show in an alternating sequence of bouncing somersaults and back flips.

Everything about Cirque de Soleil is a measured and meticulous, a clumsy gymnast just wouldn’t make the cut and it’s that pre-determined accuracy that you pay to see.

It’s something you’ve got to tick off your bucket list, there’s no question about that.

Photos by Julie Desmarais

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