Cirque Du Soleil – Totem
. . .

When: From 21st January
Where: Flemington Racecourse
Performed by: Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil has once again returned to their Melbourne homeground at Flemington Racecourse to deliver TOTEM – the latest installation by the internationally renowned circus arts company. Founded in 1984, the Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil is today one of the most prolific circus arts companies in the world. Employing over 4000 professionals (including 1300 performance artists) from 50 different countries, the outfit prides itself upon bringing the best in circus and street performance to a mainstream audience worldwide. Few would disagree that the artists in this troupe are the best in the world.Cirque du Soleil first hit Australian-shores in 2001 with Allegria, wowing audiences with their unique style of theatrical circus performance. The company’s signature aesthetic brought classical comedia dell’arte practices into a contemporary context, raising the status of circus performance to that of high-end musical theatre. Audiences were not just shown a series of tricks, they were immersed into a fantastical world with its own species, attire, language, sounds, colours and most importantly its own story.

The attention-to-detail of the peripheral theatrical settings, alongside the most astounding feats of human capacity, meant that Cirque du Soleil created a standard of its own in performing arts. You didn’t go to the circus, you went to Cirque du Soleil.Since then the company has brought six shows to the region, ranging from narrative-based works in their signature French-theatre aesthetic through to a pop Michael Jackson tribute show in 2013. The shows are generally characterized by their jaw-dropping feats of human strength, precision and agility, vibrantly decadent costuming, unique and worldly musical score, and large-scale robotic backdrops, all sewn into a rich and curious tale from a far away fairytale land.Following on from a successful Melbourne tour of the show OVO in 2014, this year’s offering, TOTEM, is based on the evolution of man: “a fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly”.Commencing with a spinning human disco ball slowly lowered into a tribe chanting in worship, TOTEM is immediately intriguing. The tribe welcomes in the shining star and works the bars in ones, twos and threes, getting “oohs” and “ahs” from the audience with their easily executed flips. From here the scene begins to expand, shift and change as different slides are inserted into this kaleidoscope of the human experience. We visit the shores of Australian beaches where ring swingers fly to a Bollywood soundscape; we meet overzealous clowns keen to fraternize with audience members; trapeze artists suspend from hands, feet, heads, flipping each other in turn; we meet beaded dolls on unicycles tossing gold pots onto one another’s heads whilst cycling on one foot – a true standout of the show; and why not casually up the ante with two interstellar goddesses balancing upon each other foot to shoulder as each limb is occupied in spinning mats? But no, the list certainly does not end there! One by one the troupe rolls out its famous jaw-dropping acts, bringing the audience to the edge of their seats and in some cases their minds.

Alongside the array of traditional circus arts, TOTEM also introduces a number of more simple and straightforward street performance pieces which allow appreciation for both the larger and smaller aspects of circus arts performance and execution. Continuing with the theme of evolution of man, Darwin himself accompanied by a motley crew of monkeys and scientists lead the audience through a variety of these tricks. The effect is visually curious.There is no question about it, TOTEM delivers on the wow-factor that audiences crave from Cirque du Soleil. The music is enthralling, the feats of human endurance and capacity are mind-blowing, the costumes are incredible. Few audience members would walk away from this show with their breath in toe.Interestingly, TOTEM appears to signify somewhat a departure from the company’s tradition of grounding its performance in a consolidated narrative, opting instead for an entertaining degustation of acts, each with their own flavour, setting, story, characters and aesthetic. While this format works well for wow-factor, the show does feel incongruent and random at times and some scenes have a jarring impact on the tone set by the one preceding it. It’s possible that this decision has been made to satisfy a growing audience demand for quick and flashy visuals. However, as with any degustation, this results in some items standing out as exceptional whilst others fall short of expectation.
One can’t help but yearn for the drawn out tales of wonder from the troupe’s early years.Nevertheless, it would be futile to argue that any other circus could deliver quite like Cirque du Soleil. The show leaves audiences struck with the magic and awe that only a performance of such exceptional calibre could bring. Nowhere else do we get the opportunity to see what truly remarkable feats are possible by world-class performance artists who can only be called superhuman in the other-worldly setting that has made this company famous.TOTEM is another incredible delivery by Cirque du Soleil.4 stars

Cirque Du Soleil - Totem
. . .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *