If you have ever been fortunate enough to see a Cirque du Soleil show, it’s newest act to reach Australian shores TOTEM should feel vaguely familiar, yet still leave you with a sense of wonderment and awe.
TOTEM doesn’t stray too far from the Cirque du Soleil formula:
- Lycra: It truly wouldn’t be Cirque du Soleil without every performer being clad in elaborately decorated lycra costumes. True to form TOTEM delivers with suitably gorgeous, colourful costumes by Kym Barett (who also created the costumes for The Matrix & Spiderman). Of all the cubic meters of lycra none was more impressive than the Crystal Man who descends from the heavens like a flexible extraterrestrial disco ball.
- Slapstick Humour: Totem provides a healthy dose of slapstick humor in the form of a macho Italian tourist called Valentino who parades around with a pencil mustache and a pair of Speedo’s.
- World Music: You’re never quite sure where the music comes from, what language they are speaking (if any) and how the performers / musicians know all the words, but Cirque du Soleil always does a fantastic job of creating an ambiance through their music. Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard deliver a powerful world music score for TOTEM that is everything audiences know and love from Cirque. Everything is performed live and the audience gets a kick when they realise the musicians are also in elaborate costumes.
- Audience Participation: At some point the audience always get’s involved, whether it’s the one lucky (or unlucky depending on who you are) fan who get’s singled out, or having the performers meander through the audience before the show starts – during TOTEM watch out for Valentino, if you’re not careful you may have a fluro yellow Speedo in your face.
- World Class Athletes: There isn’t much point having elaborate lycra costumes without having world class athletes to fill them. The show is just as much about gawking at their amazing physiques as it is their craft, both are equally impressive. Watching a regular circus, you think “That’s amazing, I couldn’t do that!” Watching Cirque du Soleil you think, “That’s amazing, no human in the world could do that!”.
TOTEM was written and directed by Robert Lepage who also wrote the Cirque’s Kà now showing in Las Vegas. The show explores the ‘evolution of mankind’ beginning with frogs emerging from the primordial ooze, moving onto monkeys, neanderthals, humans, scientists and finally cosmonauts heading to outer-space. Often Cirque du Soleil shows are too abstract for an audiences to understand, yet TOTEM does a great job of making the story tangible and attainable.
Throughout the show there are cameos of man from across the globe: surfer dudes in board-shorts who flex their pecs and show-off their six-packs on rings strung up in the rafters; Native American Indians with hoops; and even Charles Darwin. However, the act that brought the house down was a quintet of women atop giant unicycles juggling small metal bowls and teapots using their feet and heads.
A major feature of TOTEM is the set design that uses projectors and lighting to transform the stage from swamps to starry nights, lakes, volcanos, and other natural environments. One of the main elements for the set is the “scorpion bridge” that acts as an entrance, lighting feature and speed boat (you’ll have to see it for yourself). The bridge is an engineering feat and is cantilevered over the stage seeming to bend in impossible directions. The other impressive element is a ginormous turtle shell, which functions as both a decorative piece as well as acrobatic equipment.
Whilst TOTEM is thoroughly enjoying, it does seem like you have seen elements of it before – but it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about the pageantry and raw athleticism and no-one does it better than Cirque du Soleil who are still miles ahead of any other circus troup.
TOTEM is, in many ways another well-oiled Cirque du Soleil show, but it’s a really good one!
Cirque du Soleil – TOTEM Details
Telephone 02 8117 6700 Price $74.00 to $175.00