Cirque Du Soleil: Varekai

First Direct Arena, Leeds

WHAT would have happened if Icarus hadn't fallen into the sea, after flying too close to the sun?

The Greek myth is re-imagined in Varekai, Cirque Du Soleil's spectacular production placing Icarus in a magical forest at the summit of a volcano.

As the show opens, to haunting sounds of a rainforest, the stage begins to fill with exotic creatures, crawling and snaking across the space. Tall 'trees' appear in the light, and strange, fantastical figures can be spotted climbing them, scampering high into the darkness above.

A young man falls from the sky, tumbling on a length of white ribbon, and is immersed into the colourful world of Varekai.

So begins a wonderful, dream-like performance, showcasing the extraordinary skills of this world-class troupe of acrobats and aerial gymnasts.

Described as a "tribute to the nomadic soul, and the spirit and art of the circus tradition", Varekai is a riot of colour and movement, with so much going on I could barely take it all in at first.

It is beautiful and dream-like; I found myself lost in the fluidity of each scene, and the remarkable grace, strength and physicality of the performers.

As Icarus, Fernando Miro performed a spellbinding routine wrapped in an aerial net, making it look as effortless as a bird in flight.

Set against the lush tropical forest setting, with a mythical narrative, the production is essentially a showcase for the acrobatic teams and solo circus performers who make up the international Cirque Du Soleil family.

The stage was taken in turn by a variety of breathtaking acts, including a team of Japanese tumblers, leaping and somersaulting in perfect synchronicity; mesmerising trapeze dancers; twin aerialists Oleksii Kozakov and Aleksandr Romashyn soaring above the stage in perfect unison; a jaw-dropping traditional Georgian dance which saw performers bounce across the stage cross-legged; and Raphael Nepomuceno's remarkable dance on crutches, making his way around the stage like a puppet.

Director Dominic Champagne’s new version of the show, first performed in 2002, ended with a spectacular finale of daredevil gymnasts on two Russian Swings, somersaulting through the air within seconds of each other.

With a live band performing on stage, and fabulous singers Jamieson Lindenburgh and Isabelle Corradi carrying the action along, this is a terrific show, and a real treat to see such world-class performers up close. And no safety nets!

There was humour too from double act Sean Kempton and Emily Carragher, who was a scream as an inept magician's assistant, shimmying around the stage in a pink frock and big knickers. Sean's hilarious rendition of Ne Me Quitte Pas, sending up the po-faced French ballad style, had us in stitches as he chased the dancing spotlight around the arena - up stairs, down stairs, and stumbling through front row seating.

Varekai is like nothing I'd ever seen before, and it will linger long in my mind.

* Runs until February 26. Visit