REVIEW: CIRQUE DU SOLEIL – TOTEM (The Royal Albert Hall) ★★★★★

Cirque du Soleil: A circus troupe whose globally acclaimed reputation of excellence supersedes every flip, balance and rollerblading-neck-spin-on-a-tiny-podium they make. Initially named Les Échassiers (‘The Waders’), this Canadian theatre company aren’t as old as their prestigious notoriety suggests. The troupe formed in 1980 to tour Quebec and their success has effervescently soared since, becoming the largest theatrical producer in the world today.

Their latest show, TOTEM, explores the evolution of human kind from apes to cave men to outspoken modern tourists in speedos – and every glimpse of ritual, alchemy and magic in between.

In terms of spectacle, director Robert Lepage’s vision serves electrifyingly precise choreography which illustrating the most primal, human passions of our species – a paradox which flaps the jaws of the audience whose gasps reverberate off the roof of the Royal Albert Hall. From swinging muscle men who dangle horizontally by a single arm, unicyclists throwing a tower of small bowls, balancing perfectly on each other’s heads and neon moon creatures bouncing on foot-thick beams are supported by a surround sound of concordant vocals and orchestration.

But Cirque du Soleil certainly don’t lose themselves in the sometimes ambiguous story lines of circus. TOTEM’s theatricality and pacing are also expertly honed, each scene teasing the audience with believable (if a little amorphous) character and relationship before revealing their trickery. There are also comedic moments, important for a family show, and an element that plenty of producers forget in an age of ‘shock-factor’ theatre.

It is worth mentioning that even the Duke and Duchess of Sussex ventured out to see the premiere of this piece before it’s worldwide tour. This, coupled with the recent news that Meghan Markle is the new patron of the National Theatre, proves the new American royal’s interest in theatre to be overwhelmingly positive for the industry.

Reviewed by Nicole Darvill-Batten


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