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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Cirque du Soleil present TOTEM at The Royal Albert Hall

Cirque du Soleil is the name of the show on everyone’s lips this January. Returning to the mighty stage at the Royal Albert Hall they are once again wowing audiences with their impressive stunts and otherworldly acrobatics. More than any other, Cirque du Soleil is a production that whispers, ‘step away from the mince pies and get to the gym’.

'Totem' deals with the evolution of species and the development of human beings - the performers certainly illustrate the ‘survival of the fittest’. As I sat gaping at people catapulting themselves across the stage, with absolutely no fear, I wondered if they were even human. This new production is directed by Robert Lepage, the renowned Canadian theatre director, incidentally also from Quebec like the show’s origin. Tackling the theme of Darwinism he introduces us to a hoard of creatures, apes and cavemen, men in business suits and spacemen. The wizardry of the show is meticulously planned with a constantly evolving stage, making impressive use of the plain round central platform.

The evening is beautiful in every sense of the word, with an extravagant set from Carl Fillon and shimmering projections by Pedro Pires. The costumes are lavish and sparkling, and some look rather uncomfortable making the acts even more astounding. An entirely crystal covered man opens and closes the show, spiralling down from the ceiling, in a sequence that would be ideal as a Swarovski advertisement.

Highlights for me were the five cycling ladies, who wobble on tall unicycles while flipping stacks of golden bowls onto each other’s heads. I couldn’t help worrying for their safety, especially when one bowl dropped to the floor, but it was professionally recovered and all done with glowing smiles. A touching performance comes later from Canadian couple, Louis-David Simoneau and Rosalie Ducharme, acting out a charming love scene, entwining and stretching their bodies high on a trapeze; it is performed with ease and elegance. I also enjoyed the identical Balarus twins, who spin carpets fast on their feet and hands while one balances on the other’s head. And the finale is brilliantly executed, men bounce and flip on what look like thin planks of wood, held in the air by their strong companions.

Criticised often for the lack of logic in the show, I feel perhaps sceptics are missing the point.If I have a criticism it is that there is less variety this year with the acts and the disappointing clowns have no better material than usual.

Totem is my fourth time experiencing this magical circus company, and in fact I have never before left with such a clear idea in my mind about the message being conveyed. This is a show of extremes and magic, the concept is perhaps not there to be analysed but instead to act as an outline within which the acts can amaze and intrigue. If you leave a bit baffled, so what? It is much more fun to be mystified and leave pondering, that is the secret of the enduring success of the company. We are further confused by the language barrier that presents itself immediately: the peculiar title, the use of English and German notes in the programme and then the distinct absence of normal speech throughout the show, even the songs are in a dialect I could not recognise. This makes you feel, more than anything else, like a mere mortal outsider to the Cirque world.

Totem continues until 17 February 2011, buy tickets here.


  1. Oh I LOVE Cirque du Soleil, they are FABULOUS!!!, and I'm following you too dear


  2. thanks for your lovely comment :)
    oh cirque du soleil are amazing, i'd love to go see one of there shows. looks so magical!

  3. That looks like fun! I've never had the privilege to see a Cirque show, although I did work one years ago just before they went on tour. That was fun!!

    Thanks so much for your lovely comment & the follow!! :)

    Kirstin Marie

  4. Thanks for your sweet comment! Hope you visit me soon again <3

    xoxo Michaela

  5. I love cirque du solei, I visited a show of theirs when I was a kid and I can still remember it vividly!