By Jon Neville, Berkeley Homes (Southern)
It was with an air of excitement and anticipation that your Berkeley Foundation Correspondent headed to the prestigious Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 5th February 2015.
For the first six weeks of the New Year the venue plays host to the ultra slick modern circus that is Cirque De Soleil. A musical and acrobatic kaleidoscope of thrills that is guaranteed to make even the greatest adrenaline junkies gaze in awe at stomach-churning levels of gravity - and biology.
The Berkeley Foundation was hosting a Charity Gala evening in support of the Helen and Douglas House Hospice, a wonderful charity which cares for children and young adults with life shortening conditions and supports their families. From personal experience I can say that the people who form part of this wonderful organisation are earth's angels.
Besides the usual theatrics and clowning around (and that was just the people in the Foundation box), we were treated to a contortionist trio that had the audience groaning in disbelief at the tangle of limbs it bent itself into. This was followed by a dashing unicyclist cavorting around the stage whilst swinging his pliable assistant around his neck and body like a sonic hula hoop.
Next came a quartet of high wire performers skipping and cycling along wires of different heights, most of the time without a safety net.
The start of the second half was reserved for the one of the greatest pieces of acrobatic and near suicidal genius, the Wheel of Death. Two enormous drums on a pendulum, powered by two performers dressed as devils who executed acrobatics in the drums like two demented evil hamsters as it swung round on round and faster and faster on the stage. When we thought the performance in the vertigo-inducing contraption couldn't make our chins drop any further, the performers (lunatics) proceed to run around the outside edges of the wheels... using skipping ropes.
Pure adrenalin and pure circus heaven. Well, that wasn't the only bit of danger I encountered that evening.
Prior to the start of the entertainment your Foundation correspondent had an encounter that he will never forget. Whilst rushing down the elegant main staircase to meet on of his guests, he brushed against a dapper ginger haired gentleman on a mobile phone who was talking animatedly as he walked upstairs. In a second I noticed three men who were a few steps further down suddenly make a move towards me. When they realised that it was an accident, they let me pass.
Odd, I thought I recognised him... It was so preposterous that I put it to the back of my mind until later when I saw him again, in the box next to ours.
Well - it's not every day you get to literally rub shoulders with Royalty, is it?