Theatre Review: Totem

Posted on: 03 February 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

A man in a sparkling, spangled silver outfit descends from on high, unfurls his curled up body until he resembles a hieroglyph, his human form barely discernible.

TotemWelcome to the world of Cirque du Soleil, whose latest production entitled Totem, written and directed by eminent Canadian theatre director Robert Lepage, is now attracting the crowds at the Royal Albert Hall.

Inspired by many of mankind’s founding myths, this spectacular show traces the journey of human evolution from the beginnings of organic life in the primordial soup to the realisation of man’s ultimate dream of escaping the Earth's stratosphere.

Here, more than in some of their previous shows, Cirque du Soleil prove their skill at telling a story without recourse to words but entirely visually by a fusion of music (African inspired), mime, movement, dance, and m of course, breathtaking acrobatic feats, which have become their trademark. Who could not marvel at the two acrobats who perform amazing somersaults on long bamboo sticks, or the quartet of girls made up to look like Buddha’s on giant, narrow unicycles who flip golden bowls from their feet to their heads and then across at each other?

Personally the feat I found most impressive was the double act on roller blades in which a man slings a woman round at speed like a human lasso, something that is both awesome and hypnotic to watch.

I was, however, not so enamoured with the scene showing a mad professor (possible Darwin himself) juggling what appears to be multi-coloured light balls inside a big glass laboratory flask. The meaning and significance of this act escapes me. Nor was I taken with the repetitive and unfunny clowns jabbering in Italian, although the two who morphed daredevil acrobatics and balanced upside down on ropes, holding only the rings at their base, did gain my admiration.

The most amusing and thought-provoking scene was when past meets present as various lifelike apes tussle with modern man, who is dressed in a business suit and suitably equipped with mobile phone and briefcase, perfectly evoking the evolutionary development of the human species.

An aura of wonder and mysticism pervades the show, and this globe-trotting, multicultural company certainly ensures that our attention is never distracted.

Ends February 17 2011

Box office: 0745 401 5005     

Theatre reviews by Laurence Green

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