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Words on writing

Favourite quote today, from Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules on writing: No. 10 “Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.”

Cirque du Soleil – My day at the circus

My Day at the Circus 

‘Don’t forget,’ said my husband, ‘Sunday. Cirque du Soleil. Albert Hall.’

‘Oh yes,’ I said, ‘Can we park?’

There followed the usual discussion about travelling anywhere in London these days.

‘It’s Sunday – surely we can park anywhere?’

‘They’ll all think that.’

‘We could go early.’

‘They’ll all do that.’


‘Too far to walk.’



‘Cheaper than being towed away.’

‘They’ll all think that.’

‘Shall we eat first?’


‘Anywhere we can park.’

We took a taxi.

Doors open at 7pm, the tickets said.  By 7.20 the queue winding around the Albert Hall perimeter was shaking with cold.  A few people hovered nearby and we all stiffened in that way we do when we think someone is trying to jump in.  Before open hostility could erupt, the interlopers disappeared, and the queue resumed the all-important task of shivering.

At 7.30 the doors opened and a tannoyed voice apologising for the delay was drowned out by the surge of heavy coats whooshing through to the warm.  We were in.

A solitary kiosk offered one option of sweets: a bag of Minstrels.  Nice touch: the show’s name – Alegria – means ‘minstrel’.  Even cleverer to sell a small bag of Minstrels for that price…. We took our seats.

I wasn’t looking forward to the show.  Apparently it was a ‘new take’ on circus.  So what?  I never liked the old take.  But I changed my mind.

Cirque du Soleil is an amazing confection, difficult to describe without a welter of clichés, and devised so cleverly that it holds your attention at all levels of sound and vision.  Yes, it’s circus – there are acrobats, clowns, a very strong strongman, trapeze artists, ‘animals’ – but Alegria takes this traditional theme to a new dimension.

While the individual displays of strength, acrobatics and dance are breathtaking, undoubtedly the triumph of Alegria is attention to detail. Every move of the artistes, every scene shift, the way different characters come to sit or kneel at the edge of the stage or in the audience during the acts, every entrance and exit is beautifully choreographed.

The clowns have you applauding at the lift of their arm and suddenly you’re competing with the other side of the auditorium to see who can make the most noise.  Simple stage ‘business’ – but so effective.

Alegria enthrals from the start, as the minstrel band weaves through the audience piping and drumming its way to the stage.  From the hump-backed, pot-bellied, stick-legged ‘ringmaster’ who capers and cavorts around the stage, while somehow managing never to be in the way, the strong man who strides on at the end of the contortionists’ act to carry them effortlessly off the stage; to the clowns who ‘help’ with scene changes and test out the acrobats’ equipment and the beautiful distinctive voices of the principal singers, it is an astonishing spectacle. Frankly, it blew me away. We’re going again. By taxi, of course.

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“That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones.”  (Raymond Carver)