Cirque du Soleil is an international phenomenon. With performances worldwide, the popularity of this brand brings forth an entirely unique experience. With a variety of shows and tributes, each performance is creatively curated like no other.
Creators Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon have brought a completely new experience to the Cirque trademark with their wildly colourful adaptation TORUK: The First Flight. Based off James Cameron's Avatar, the Air Canada Centre transforms into the fantastical world of Pandora filled with radiant creatures, plants and aerial acts that defy gravity. The Storyteller (Raymond O'Neill) rises from centre stage, inviting us into a world of sorrow long ago. The sheer base of the land vividly disappears and brings life to the bristling and busy Omaticaya Clan.
TORUK is not only a visual feat, but a beautiful story of friendship, obstacles and overcoming fear. The story opens with the close friendship of Ralu (Jeremiah Hughes) and Entu (Daniel Crispin) who are about to take part in their initiation ceremony as part of a coming-of-age ritual. Entu fails and runs off into the forest embarrassed and ashamed. Meanwhile, a loud thundering occurs and The Shaman (Priscilla Le Foll) has a frightening vision of lava engulfing the clan's Tree of Souls. Entu finds the tree of voices which tell him that only the Toruk can save the Tree of Souls, provided they gather five sacred objects. The performance then progresses into this search for the objects and the Toruk where both Ralu and Entu engage in a visually stunning adventure through Pandora.
While enticing, the show has very minimal dialogue that is mainly spoken by the Storyteller. Any other dialogue heard was spoken in the native languages of the main characters. The narration of the piece is efficient in maintaining the plot developments, but the action isn't enough for the performance to fully grip you. The first half of the first act moved far too slow for the impressive choreography and aerial stunts to completely engage you. There was too much jumping, swinging and hanging rather than a melange of circus-style performances to really capture your attention.
Where some of the movement and acrobatic feats became almost boring, the overall aesthetic of the piece is completely worth the price. Set and props designer Carl Fillion outstandingly captures the Na'vi world of Pandora. Coupled with Lemieux and Pilon's astonishing multimedia design, audiences are transported into a world of fantasy, mystery and illumination. The entire world shifts from forests to mountains, with the successful use of projection technologies that cast shadows and stream water. All theatrical elements are harmonized to the extent that you can almost refresh yourself from the stunning streams and catch ablaze from the lava flowing to the Tree of Souls. In addition to the technological factors the contribute greatly to the visual triumph, costume and makeup designer Kym Barrett creates lifelike forms of cinematic marvel that brings new life to the Avatar epic.
The visual elements of TORUK strengthen and uphold the true Canadian essence that is Cirque du Soleil. You may not cry, but you will certainly be enticed by this glittering spectacle of new age production. If you have never been to a Cirque show, I would most definitely start here.
TORUK: The First Flight is presented by Cirque du Soleil and ran at the Air Canada Centre to Jan. 10. For more chances to see Cirque, the show will be coming to Hamilton from May 20-22, London from May 27-29, and Ottawa from June 30-July 3. Visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk to purchase your tickets.