Delight as the circus hits town; THEATRE Cirque du Soleil/ Echo Arena.
IN FAMOUS circus founder PT Barnum once stitched a fish's tail to a dead monkey and claimed he had discovered a mermaid.
If he and his fellow showmen had enjoyed access to the 250 costumes, 500 props, 200 shoes and 120ft overhead conveyor that appeared on the Echo Arena stage last night, then you can be sure they would have managed to construct an entire menagerie of mythological animals.
Yet Quidam, the second Cirque du Soleil touring show to visit Liverpool in as many years, proved that you don't need to be handy with a needle and thread to put on a breathtaking performance.
You could have taken away the beautiful costumes, tricky technology and spectacular lighting, and you would still be left with a dazzling display.
This was never more true than in the human statue act, which was about as stripped down as the show ever got.
Jerome Le Baut and Anna Vicente wound together, lifting one another up, so that they fluctuated between two distinct individuals and a single, otherworldly whole.
The languorous pace of their movement created a tension that was only broken when they slipped silently backstage.
Quidam's creators have taken the winning formula of the Big Top, adding elements of silent movies, slapstick, dance and dramatic special effects to create an incredible viewing experience.
The show takes its name from the Latin for a passer-by, and an anonymous observer is a favourite plot construct for Cirque du Soleil.
In this case it is a little girl, through whose eyes we see a fractured world of strange and wonderful creatures.
Like the monsters of childhood nightmares, they come tumbling through a cupboard door, seeming oddly familiar as if you had encountered them many years ago only to block out the memory during adolescence.
Oksana Pylypchuk created stunning Dali-esque shapes in her aerial contortion using a long strip of blood red silk, while Kata Banhegyi and Norihisa Taguchi were the main performers in a skipping sequence that was ingenious and charming in equal measures. Finally, Toto Castineiras was the clown all clowns should be modelled on - funny, cheeky and not a bit scary.
These creatures live in the imagination of children, but as adults it takes a spectacular like Quidam to allow us to experience them.
QUIDAM runs at Echo Arena Liverpool until Sunday. To watch a video of the show, visit http://bit.ly/quidam
Cory Sylvester performs on the German wheel, as Cirque du Soleil performers, also below, thrill the Echo Arena crowd Pictures: DAVID MUNN