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).

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.


Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP
South Kensington tube
0845 401 5045  
Until February 17
£18 – £90

– Louise Kingsley