Cirque du Soleil – Totem
Season 10 April to 24 May 2015. Bookings: www.cirquedusoleil.com/totem.
Totem – The Odyssey of the Human Species is the latest spectacular show from the extremely talented performers who make up the Cirque du Soleil. Totem is a collection of scenes inspired by the story of evolution, from the beginnings of life to the world we have today.
The experience of the Cirque begins outside the Grand Chapiteau where a large, inflated turtle, manipulated by a couple of handlers to move forwards and sideways, changes colours.
The show begins even before the performance commences with three characters – two Clowns (an Italian, Valentino, and a hobo), the Tracker (reminiscent of a circus ringmaster in a beautiful red and green costume with black top hat, which had lights on the inside), and an elderly ‘mad’ scientist with a large lizard tucked under his arm.
These four entertained the audience as people took their seats, or not if you encountered the Hobo, who removed one man from his seat and sat another man down in his place, placed a girl on his lap and lead away the first man and just left him standing in the aisle; and lots of selfies being taken.
The stage itself was deceptive in its simplicity with a large circular area with a bone skeleton shell sitting dead centre. At the back was a sloped oval area (raised at the back and leading down to the stage) and beyond this was tall reeds you would expect to be growing around a pond. It was deceptive in its simplicity, because this stage transformed – a trampoline the length of the skeleton shell opened up in the floor, as did holes for performers to emerge from at other parts of the show.
The sloped area’s central piece opened to become a walking ramp which moved out and down, or a brilliantly lit aperture for entrances, to a jet boat and even a rocket. All of this is accompanied by one of the most amazing lighting displays I have ever seen, transforming bare stage to beach with surf running up the sand, to a desert, to an erupting volcano, and sea with sharks.
The opening scene has the Crystal Man (whose costume comprised of 4001 hand sewn mirrors and crystals) descending from ‘heaven’ and a very cleverly choreographed, synchronised parallel bars act by four frog/lizard type creatures, also using the trampoline underneath to great effect, if the oohs and aahs from the audience are anything to judge by.
I have never seen an act quite like it before. The music was vibrant and the surround sound speakers were used to great effect with sound effects, such as a large buzzing insect flying past. The following acts are all part of the human evolution – mutation, seduction, legend, nature, culture, attraction, passion, science, elegance, innovation, and celebration – and are a series of performances involving dance, rings, hoops, strength, unicycles, skates, and trapeze swing. We all, at some stage, sit and watch the world’s top gymnasts compete at the Olympic Games and know what can be performed using the double rings, or the parallel bars or the balance beam. Cirque takes it one notch further and you are left gobsmacked at the feats these performers pull off.
The costumes throughout the show are incredible as is the makeup that transforms these artists into the persona we see on the stage. This is even more emphasised if you purchase a program that has each artist’s face before and after – simply amazing.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show, whilst I was sitting through it, and again now, writing this review and remembering what I saw – there was just too much going on to include it all. I think the two acts which stood out for me was Seduction, where we had two very buffed men in board shorts using a single ring each, swinging out towards the audience or past each other on stage in a very testosterone loaded of “who’s better” show off.
Enter the Arabian Princess ‘pretty in pink’, which further enlivens our two young males and a performance done to music that I can only describe as Arabian Hip Hop. Our Arabian Princess also puts on a display of her own, using two rings, which was simply incredible with the strength required.
The other act was Science, where our mad scientist is experimenting in the laboratory, accompanied by his assistants and chimpanzee. The act centres on the discovery of new and amazing things – with a very large set of test tubes being used as a set of drums and a smaller set as pan pipes.
The marvel of this act is the giant upside beaker into which the mad scientist inserts himself and then plays with colour-changing light balls zipping around the inside, in what Nikola Tesla (a Serbian American inventor best known for his contributions to the modern AC electricity supply system) himself would have gotten a huge smile out of.
Totem is playing under The Grand Chapiteau which can be found on, Hamilton from Pauline Smith
12 April 2015