Translated from the Spanish, Alegría means ‘happiness, joy and jubilation’ and these were all in evidence at the Echo Arena on Sunday, 3rd November. The performance space, half its normal size, had been transformed into a dark, autumnal, fairytale setting and for two hours on a cold, blustery Sunday afternoon, the audience were transported into a magical world of colour, music and movement.
We were still settling in our seats, children dipping into bags of
sweets, adults of all ages checking mobile phones (have we lost the
knack of concentrating on the present moment?), and it took a moment or
two to register that a clown had shambled into the arena. A word of
warning to all potential audience members – if you don’t want to find
yourself taking part in a performance, then don’t sit near the stage!
The laughter that followed settled everyone down and we sat back to
enjoy the show. I was relieved when the audience were given a stern
warning not to use mobile devices or cameras during the show, even
without flash, as these could prove dangerous to the performers, but
this didn’t deter someone sitting a couple of rows in front of us from
videoing part of the show on his phone. Fortunately, vigilant arena
staff were on the spot in seconds, and the device was swiftly switched
The show consisted of 55 performers and musicians of twenty
nationalities. The set was designed by Michel Crete, costumes by
Dominique Lemieux with the soundtrack by Rene Dupré. But these are mere
facts, what these people created for us was a stunning visual and aural
spectacle that set the nerves tingling and the pulses throbbing.
I have to admit that I’ve never been fond of clowns, their slapstick
comedy routines usually leave me cold, but this show certainly changed
my opinion – I never knew you could have so much fun with paper planes!
The routines involving unsuspecting members of the audience were so
hilarious I did wonder if they were ‘plants’ – if they weren’t then
congratulations are in order. And the ‘pantomime’ horse may be a cliché,
but it still made me hoarse with laughter (pun intended!). I did find
one of the characters appearing between acts rather grotesque; not being
able to follow the intended theme of the show (should have bought a
programme) I wasn’t sure what he represented. Dressed in black and red,
short, with impossibly bent legs, a huge belly that wobbled and an
enormous hump on his back, he was the stuff of nightmares – did he
represent ‘chaos’? Every time I saw his painfully twisted body strut
around the stage I worried that his act would leave him permanently
We needed the clowns’ routines to give us some light relief between the
breathtaking acts otherwise the excitement might have been too much for
some of us older members of the audience! The mesmerising Fire Knife
Dancers, twirling their batons of fire, should have come with a warning,
‘Children, do not attempt this at home’. Seeing them set a section of
the stage alight was another reason I was glad not to be sitting at the
front, even though I knew it was quite safe.
Acrobats performed incredible feats on The Russian Bars, somersaulting
high in the air and landing on narrow planks supported on the shoulders
of their catchers. While watching the performers you also have to
appreciate the phenomenal body strength and perfect timing of these
catchers. The audience were spellbound by The Mongolian Body Twisters;
by performers on metal spinning rings; and especially by a contortionist
– there were times when I couldn’t make out the individual parts of her
body as she twisted it into shapes that seemed physically impossible. I
found myself wondering how she gets out of bed in the morning. Feet
first? Head first? Stomach first? Not slowly, with creaking joints like
me, that’s for sure.
The female vocalist and the excellent musicians linked and accompanied
all the acts perfectly. Sometimes, there was so much going on, so many
people on stage, so much colour, noise and movement it was almost
It seemed all too soon before it was time for the Finale. And what a
Finale it was! We watched, holding our collective breath, as the
acrobats, two at a time, climbed swaying ladders until they stood on a
platform 40 feet above the arena. What followed was an awe-inspiring
spectacle of high-wire acrobatics. With two catchers suspended on swings
below the platform there was an ever-changing movement of bodies flying
through the air, swinging, catching, being caught, at death-defying,
incredible speed. It was like watching a kaleidoscope, the pattern
changing constantly. I marvelled at the complete trust members of the
troupe must have in one another. And the fact that for the Finale a net
had been suspended beneath the performers in no way detracted from their
skill and bravery as they each jumped 40 feet into the net at the end
of the act.
Performance over, it was a shock to emerge, blinking, into the bleak
daylight of a late autumn day, our eyes still filled with colour and
movement, our ears ringing with music, bodies still vibrating with the
thrumming of drums. A truly wonderful show, spectacular in the true
sense of the word; a show to recall and wonder at in the dull days of
Thank you Alegría, and thank you Echo Arena, for a memorable afternoon.
We’re now looking forward to André Rieu’s concert in December.