TOTEM from Cirque Du Soleil returns to the Royal Albert Hall in London’s South Kensington, and has lost none of its magic.
When you find yourself sat in the Royal Albert Hall, among actual royalty, you know you’re in for quite a show.
Prince Harry and pregnant princess Meghan Markle took a night off from pre-natal classes for some good old fashioned entertainment – and more importantly to raise funds and awareness for The Duke of Sussex’s charity, Sentebale, which helps youth affected by HIV in southern Africa. The couple gave the crowd a very well-received wave from their royal box as thousands gathered in one of London’s most iconic venues for an evening of awe-inspiring performances from the ever-dependable Cirque Du Soleil.
Since premiering in Montreal, Canada, in 2010, the show TOTEM – written and directed by Robert Lepage – has been performed over 2,800 times, entrancing more than 5 million fans in more than 45 cities, with a cast of 46 acrobats, actors, musicians and singers, hailing everywhere from Belarus to Brazil. World class was never a more appropriate term.
The show begins by unveiling the cast from underneath a giant tortoise shell – start as you mean to go in, naturally, in terms of the surreal nature of Cirque – unleashing an eccentric variety of performers at the very top of their game, who take you through the odyssey of the human species, tracing mankind’s incredible journey – from our original amphibian state to our ultimate quest for flight, exploring our “dreams and intimate potential.”
So a bit more cultured than seeing Mamma Mia for the hundredth time, supposedly.
The crowd – which also included Sir David Jason and Danny Dyer, a different kind of royalty, perhaps – watched in awe as acrobats took to death-defying heights on the trapeze, to portray the act of – awwww – falling in love. But, thankfully, not actually falling. God forbid.
But it’s true that a great portion of the show is watched, by many, through hands covering peeping eyes, almost as if you were seeing a horror film – as despite their expertise, you find yourself fearing for their safety as they fling themselves around the grand venue.
Safer territory, however, is found when they’re on their unicycles, although still very high, as the female TOTEM cast put on a mind-boggling display of throwing and catching bowls on each other’s heads while maneuvering on one wheel.
You can’t help but admire the dedication and training that must have gone into perfecting these acts, in the same way you’d take your hat off to a world class athlete.
In between the jaw-dropping acrobatics and stunts, clowns provide comedy relief. And no, not scary clowns – no Pennywise here, fortunately. Instead, the TOTEM clowns attempt to impress female audience members in yellow speedos, while larking about on stage, raising smiles with every nudge, nudge and wink wink.
In the second half, two gymnasts bend into shapes that defy physics, gravity and all logic, with legs behind their heads, rolling around with baffling ease, leaving you wondering how smug their partners must be. Ahem.
The highlight of the show is where its narrative shines strongest, when the primates are introduced. The cast – in full ape gear – emulate our ancestors in ways that Andy Serkis would be proud of. Yes, from one circus to another!
They demonstrate our evolution from ape to man, and include a genius recreation of the Evolution of Man that’s just masterfully choreographed.
It’s quite the ride. We’re taken through science laboratories, we’re jumping from boards – high in the air to land on other boards – and then watching two roller skaters pull off dozens of unbelievable stunts, one after the other, as the female skater is spun quickly around, holding on only by her feet to the male’s neck, in an undeniably impressive display.
It’ll leave your head spinning, too. Truly, TOTEM has to be seen to be believed.
Tickets are on sale now, and for a truly unforgettable Cirque du Soleil experience a collection of premium and VIP experiences for all the family are also available. Tickets can be purchased through the Cirque du Soleil website or www.royalalberthall.com or 020 7589 8212. In support of Sentebale, donations can be made at sentebalenights.org/cirquedusoleil