Well, this Saturday was definitely one of the best I’ve had for a while. Months ago, I booked tickets on O2 Priority for Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai in Nottingham, and I’m so glad I did! I’d seen them a couple of years ago in a different production, so I knew I was going to be in for a treat.
I started the day off with a trip to my hairdressers, with very sorry-looking faded grown-out highlights, and emerged a good few hours later with glossy, healthy, pink bouncing curls. I’d had this pink toner applied a couple of times before, but it’s definitely true that it gets brighter and bolder each time it is applied. Feeling slightly self-conscious, occasionally catching glimpses of very pink strands of hair from the corner of my eye, we set off into town to have some food and a drink or two before going to the arena to see the show.
Now, anyone who has read my previous blogs knows I like to eat good food and try new places. The trouble is, Nottingham has so many good places to eat that sometimes it’s difficult choosing exactly where to go! Over the last 6 months or so, I have become slightly obsessed with Thai food – funny, really, as I would go to many a length to avoid eating this in the past, much to the annoyance of my family who love their local Thai restaurant! Nottingham has a few options to choose from, Tarn Thai being consistently brilliant, but rather on the pricy side. I’d been to Zaap Thai once before, and really liked it, but my friend wasn’t keen. I managed to persuade her that it was worth a re-try, helped in part by friends of hers who had told her it was very authentic Thai street food. Arriving there, I joked that it would be amazing to sit on one of the rickshaw tables – literally inside a rickshaw. Amazingly, that’s exactly where we were shown to – so we slid into our seats and started perusing the menu. Inside the restaurant is all manner of bizarre things – t-shirts hanging, baskets and hats along the wall, bunting and mopeds. It feels like walking along a busy Thai street – or at least, I imagine it does!
The menu is full of interesting dishes, with a few scary-sounding ones thrown in for good measure. I don’t know exactly what this is, but I am unable to take a dish of ‘morning glory’ seriously – maybe one day I will order it, just to have a giggle to myself. My favourite Thai dish is red curry, and so this was an obvious choice; the second choice for a main was massaman curry, something I’ve not loved in the past. We decided to start this off with king prawn battered skewers, and pork and prawn dim sum, which were light and nommy with little dipping pots of sauce. Unfortunately, somehow we managed to get confused with all the Thai words, and ended up ordering chicken and vegetables stir-fried in red sauce, rather than a red curry. However, this didn’t matter when it came as it was still super tasty and much fresher than a curry might have been. The massaman curry, however, was the winner of the evening – absolutely delicious, far better than I’d had anywhere else and not crammed with huge pieces of bland potato. Once stuffed, we sat back in our rickshaw and decided to have a cocktail, Thai style, again delicious and very attractively presented. Whilst drinking these, we enjoyed watching the (very high maintenance) occupants of the table next to us have an altercation with the poor waiter about how they wouldn’t be paying for one of their meals as the meat was not lean enough! It never fails to amaze me how people can find cause for complaint in everything!
Leaving Zaap Thai, we enjoyed walking to the other side of Nottingham, through the Market Square which was full of people enjoying the early Saturday evening, in and around the fountains and on the wheel. Eventually we arrived at the Arena, ready and excited to watch the show.
We hadn’t read much about this Varekai production, but expected it to be a story about woodland and mythical creatures. Like I said, we had been before to see Cirque du Soleil perform Kooza, their circus-themed show, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. That production (and location) was absolutely amazing, allowing the cast to showcase their incredible talents in a theme that was perfectly suited to them. I suppose I expected this Varekai to struggle to live up to the precedent Kooza had set. Our seats were in the stalls area of the arena, and although we were only on the 5th row, we did struggle to see what was going on at stage level. This didn’t particularly matter as there was so much going on higher up – trapeze artists, silk climbers, dangling acrobats… These people really are the best in the business. The first half was good, but we felt slightly disappointed that we couldn’t see it all. Luckily, for the second half, the people in front of us didn’t return, so we had a much better view and the scenes and tricks that were performed were just incredible. The whole show was brought to a close by about 10 minutes of men on long swinging benches, flinging themselves off these swings, high into the air, landing in billowing white silk drapes. This was combined with handstands, contortionism and giant hoola hoops. The whole thing was accompanied by a small slightly out-of-view orchestra and a man and a woman singing and chanting throughout the whole show. The performers are so clever, and brave, and dedicated to their jobs. They must be so exhausted after each set, and they do multiple sets per show, never looking tired or fed up. I read on instagram recently that they did their 5000th consecutive Varekai show a few weeks ago, some of the cast never missing a single show – it really is just incredible. Unfortunately, the show had to end, and although it wasn’t quite as good as Kooza had been, it was still a brilliant, fun, exciting show to watch. It most definitely won’t be my last!