Robert Lepage’s Totem – Cirque du Soleil
Two of Canada’s favourite exports join forces in the latest circus extravaganza to hit London – Cirque du Soleil and director Robert Lepage (who can create a sense of wonder and magic even in a one man show).
Here, he has the resources of the international business that Cirque has become to play with and although there is, perhaps, nothing ground-breaking as far as the circus element is concerned, the whole show is sumptuously beautiful to look at.
As usual with this company, the pretence of a story drifts away fairly rapidly, though two themes – evolution and Red Indians (the link isn’t clear) – regularly emerge without being meaningfully developed. But for sheer spectacle, the production is hard to beat.
The costumes are gorgeous and the artists fiercely talented. A human glitterball (over 4,000 reflective fragments pieces adorn Crystal Man’s leotard) descends from the roof and uncurls like a tadpole high above the stage.
Performers clad in the dangerously vivid costumes of poisonous frogs perch on a huge, turtle-like skeleton and others in realistic monkey costumes observe – and participate – in the acrobatic action.
The muscly Rings Trio in skimpy, neon-bright bathing gear swing out alarmingly over the auditorium; a quintet of tiny Chinese girls executes a perfectly synchronised display on unicycles, flipping bowls from foot to head as they balance; the Crystal Ladies twirl sparkling cloths on upturned feet and hands; a roller skating duo swirl perilously on a drum-shaped platform less than two metres in diameter and a Darwinesque scientist juggles balls of light inside a huge cone – all accompanied by live music.
But the highlights of the show are a cheeky routine on the fixed trapeze (the limbs of the two performers increasingly entwined till it’s impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins), a gravity-defying sequence on the Russian Bars which, balanced on strong shoulders, send the lighter members of the troupe flying seemingly weightlessly into the air, and (and here the influence of Lepage really shows) the stunning projections which seem to flood the stage with rippling water, a shark-infested sea or a stream of molten lava.
– Louise Kingsley