The circus is in town and so three thousand of us made the trip last night to the Big Top that is the Royal Albert Hall to witness their new production, TOTEM. As mentioned previously this was my first time seeing the Cirque Du Soleil live, despite the fact I’ve been aware and admired the Cirque Du Soleil’s work since the mid 90’s, when I saw a video of their Saltimbanco production.
Along with the CdS brand this production also has the added bonus of being written and directed by the creative visionary that is Robert Lepage. So my expectations were running high.
The theme for this production as you can see from the picture above is the evolution of mankind, which is a fascinating and amazing story in and of itself, could it be told by jugglers, acrobats, clowns and other acts I wondered? As we took our seats, several of the cast were mingling and interacting with the audience, which as anyone that reads my blog regularly will know, I think is a really good thing. The ringmaster character had a wonderful top hat that contained a really powerful light which he used to spotlight the crowd and was visually striking and a very clever idea, that would be utilised in the show.
The lights dimmed and we were off on our journey. What follows is a two and a half hour spectacular, that is honestly hard to put into words, I’ll try, but they really won’t do justice to the visual, audio and theatrical display.
“TOTEM is about life. The life that drives us; fragile at birth yet strong by nature.” Guy Laliberte, founder of CdS says in the programme. As I witnessed what looked like the impossible I was caught up in joy and wonder that is human existence. ALL the acts are brilliant but for me the highlights were;
The Tsodikova sisters foot juggling, where they juggled what looked like cloaks, individually then between them, then with one of them balancing on the other. How they kept their own balance while keeping their cloaks spinning was incredible. The costumes and design took this to another level though, this was a visual recreating of the big bang, from which we all came , as the programme states, “Born of chaos…From the mineral depths, energy and beauty emerge.” This routine was both energetic and beautiful, as are the Tsodikova sisters!
Ante Ursic did a passionte flamenco styled devil stick routine, with the poise and dynamism of a matador. One man, and three sticks kept us enthralled as they spun, flipped and defied gravity.
Greg Kennedy played a scientist character throughout the show. Then in Act 2 he steps inside his laboratory and while the band accompany him by playing on the test tubes and pipes, he steps inside a giant conic vase and starts juggling balls that light up/change colour whilst whizzing around the cone. The scientist watching and manipulating the atoms was such a clever and innovative routine, and a theatrical vision I’ll remember forever.
Rosalie Ducharme and Louis-David Simoneau, gave a beautifully trapeze routine, that was incomparable to anything I’ve ever seen. Throughout it showed the trials and exhilaration of love and romance. Now I know that’ll sound strange, a trapeze act show that?? YES! I was genuinely moved by it.
Finally, the show closed with a Russian troupe of flyers. I’ve always wanted to see this feat performed live as I’d seen it on TV when I was a boy and literally my jaw fell open then. Seeing it live now had the same effect, as they leapt, spun and flew through the air and then landed on a thin plank. As Robert Lepage says in the programme, “Out natural curiosity calls us ever upwards – we seem possessed by the desire to fly.” Well these performers can fly.
The above simply scratches the surface, they are all accompanied by a fabulous score, stunning costumes and make up that adds to a total theatrical package. ALL of the performers are top of their game and the creative team with Lepage at the helm have created a piece of theatre that celebrates the amazing fact that we’ve come from star-dust, evolved and can do some pretty amazing things. It also leaves one filled with a passion and desire to see humankind move onwards and upwards.
I left the Royal Albert Hall filled with a buzz, joy and a greater appreciation for this crazy thing we call life. As we whizz through space, we are all part of this evolutionary journey, and will forever continue to be, as we return to the star-dust as it continues ever onwards.