Posts Tagged ‘cirque du soleil


Cirque du Soleil’s KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities opens this week!


The brand new white-and-grey Cirque du Soleil Big Top was raised on the weekend, marking the arrival of KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities in Brisbane from January 10 – February 23.


  • This is the first time the all new grey-and-white big top has been to Australia.

  • The Big Top stands about 20 metres (56 feet) high and is 51 metres (164 feet) in diameter.

  • Over 60 technicians raise more than 100 metal poles in the final step of building the roof of the “grand chapiteau”.

  • It is supported by 4 steel masts that each stand at 24 metres (79 feet) high.

  • More than 550 pegs are required to anchor the Big Top.

  • The Big Top can accommodate more than 2,400 people.

  • The entire site set-up includes installation of the entrance, hospitality and rehearsal tents, administrative offices, workshops, and kitchen.

  • KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities travels city to city with more than 85 containers carrying the entire village.


Written and directed by Michel Laprise, KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is a tale in which time comes to a complete stop, transporting the audience inside a fantasy world where everything is possible.  In this realm set in the latter half of the nineteenth century, reality is quite relative indeed as our perception of it is utterly transformed.




KURIOS is Cirque du Soleil’s 35th production since 1984.  The newest big top production to tour Australia arrives with a cast of 47 artists from 17 countries including world-class gymnasts, acrobats, contortionists, hand-puppeteers, yo-yo wizards, clowns, actors and musicians.









Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK – The First Flight, inspired by James Cameron’s AVATAR opens this week at Brisbane Entertainment Centre


Brisbane Entertainment Centre: 5th – 8th & 11th – 15th October




Inspired by James Cameron’s record-breaking film AVATAR, TORUK – The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil will make its Australian debut at Brisbane’s Entertainment Centre in October before heading to Sydney (Qudos Bank Arena), Melbourne (Rod Laver Arena), Adelaide (Entertainment Centre) and then Perth (Perth Arena).


“Avatar is really meant to be a celebration of human motion and human emotion and Cirque is able to capture that absolutely perfectly, because it’s all about human performance and physicality. It makes you feel alive to watch these performers,” said James Cameron. ‘’TORUK – The First Flight is an integration of humanity and technology, a colorful spectacle for the entire family. We are delighted to see this epic journey take flight in Australia, a country so rich in culture and scenery as can be found on Pandora,’’ said director and writer Michel Lemieux.



THE SHOW: Inspired by James Cameron’s AVATAR, TORUK – The First Flight transports you to the world of Pandora in a visually stunning live setting. Experience a storytelling odyssey through a new world of imagination, discovery, and possibility. Through a riveting fusion of cutting-edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to James Cameron’s imaginary world and “makes the bond” between two kindred artistic visions that capture the imagination. This live immersive experience also bears the distinct signature of directors and multimedia innovators Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon. It is a living ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic co-existence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things.


Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller” and populated by unforgettable characters, TORUK – The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film AVATAR, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.


THE STORY: When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omatikaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands. Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal, on a quest high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.






Cirque du Soleil

Skygate, next to Brisbane Airport DFO

November 24 2016 – January 8 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Which Cirque du Soleil shows have you seen? Australia has seen eight:

Quidam – Dralion – Varekai – OVO – TOTEM – Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour – Saltimbanco – KOOZA

KOOZA (since 2007) is touted as being Cirque du Soleil’s best show yet, but it’s not my favourite. It’s light and bright and lots of fun without delving too deeply into the psyche or anything overly social or political. And, in times of trouble in the world, apparently that’s just what we need. 


As the court clowns and the foolish footmen build the tension of a new show the king shuts off the lights… the show has begun. One spotlight appears…a clown…”the innocent ” trying to fly a kite, a large box appears and out comes the trickster. Who will be the KOOZA?

– Poppy Eponine

KOOZA is not entirely without narrative and some would say it’s the most simple and effective story of all (there have been some convoluted plots in the past, let’s be honest). This one features a powerful Trickster (Vladislav Zolotarev), who springs from a box to lead the Innocent, a naive and charming clown (Joey Arrigo), on a fantastical journey through fun times with new funny friends to find his place in the world. It’s a wafer thin classic quest premise, a young hero’s journey – the Innocent’s gotta’ find his corner of the sky – and by combining acrobatics and the art of clowning, we get the best of all aspects of traditional circus (Creator and Director David Shiner).

KOOZA comprises many disparate pieces, something for everyone, and boasts an Olympics worthy international ensemble of acrobats, contortionists and aerial artists. KOOZA might be the first Cirque you’ve ever seen, in which case you won’t look for deeper meaning and you’ll probably see this company’s most exciting and death defying acts straight up.


On opening night we were privileged to see Queenslander, Lisa Skinner, on the aerial hoop, her act fast and furious; she just a whirl of bright colour high above our heads, and spinning until blurry, toes barely touching the ground, centrestage. Barely into the same act during Sunday’s matinee, Skinner fell from a height of almost 5 metres and landed face first on the floor, sustaining injuries for which she was treated before being taken by ambulance to hospital. My sister (a stage manager) wasn’t calling Sunday’s show, she saw the accident on the monitor backstage. Our parents were in the audience and my mum cried out, along with hundreds of other horrified witnesses. They said Skinner looked as if she might be dead, with her neck resting at an odd angle. Fortunately, Skinner is recovering well. Having already undergone shoulder reconstruction before the commencement of this tour, she must be devastated to miss performing in front of her home crowd for the remainder of the season. 



The contortionists deliver an exquisite act of ancient serpentine elegance and humour, their bodysuits, of jewels and earth, glistening as they bend and twist and impossibly pose (Sunderiya Jargalsaikhan, Ninjin Altankhuyag & Odgerel Byambadorj). A unicycle duo delight (Olga Tutynina & Yury Shavro), teeterboard acrobats defy gravity, high wire antics thrill, and the balancing chair act elicits gasps of genuine disbelief and awe (Yao Deng Bo). Yao Deng Bo is my favourite performer, the epitome of focus, strength, balance, grace and old world circus charm.


The Wheel of Death (or, more philosophically and psychoanalytically, The Wheel of Life-Death-Life) proves itself the highlight of the show, although we missed much of it due to the sweat sheet and poor sight lines behind a lighting truss in our seating section. The Columbian acrobats, Ronald Montes & Jimmy Zapata actually risk their lives during this performance; it’s terrifying to watch. I wish we’d been able to see more of it. KOOZA is the first Cirque show to incorporate front of house lighting, requiring the trusses spaced throughout the Grand Chapiteau, and I wonder if it’s the last. The little we were able to see of the skilled artist leaping above the arm of one of these towers was indeed impressive, as he ran and rose magically from the hamster wheel on one end of the turning mechanism, but it lacked tension and thrill factor for us. The same problem applied to the double high wire act and we heard a number of disgruntled audience members around us. Do these people offer their feedback to the company? I hope they do, and I hope, rather than giving a 1-star rating on Trip Advisor or Facebook, they simply advise friends to book seats in a different section. Poppy had an ideal view from Section 200, where she was sitting with her cousins, and she could not stop talking about these amazing acts for days.

The contortionist act was spellbinding but still second-best to THE WHEEL OF DEATH (dah dah dah!). How Ronald Solis Montes & Jimmy Ibarra Zapata amazingly survive the wheel of death time & time again I do not know.   

– Poppy Eponine   

A tight band under the direction of Carl Murr, and powerhouse singer, clad in rich, colourful silks (Jennlee Shallow), deliver KOOZA’s original jazz, funk and Bollywood styled music with gusto. The beautiful, magical structure that holds them, a tall, ornately carved, cylindrical timber tower, the Bataclan, glides forward to feature the musicians and then backwards to serve as an entrance and exit for various acts (Designer Stephanie Roy). It’s a glorious piece of design, fully integrated into the show. I love the way our Australian percussionist (Adelaide’s Ben Todd) is brought out into centrestage to be featured, just as each acrobat takes his or her turn in the spotlight. And spilling from the doorway (only to be chased by a Death Cape destined pack of 150 fake fur rats), I enjoyed the exuberant Day of the Dead dance; it’s a theme from which I’d love to see Cirque draw more heavily.


Irina Akimova’s hoop manipulation is also highly entertaining but it’s her magnificent feathered coat, the standout costume in this show, that leaves a lasting impression. The KOOZA costumes, designed by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt, are inspired by comic books and graphic novels, the work of Gustav Klimt, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. (You’ll see the influence of the flying monkeys on the faces of the acrobats on the double high wire). In KOOZA we see much more from the clowns than in previous Cirque shows and rather than use gibberish to communicate, these clowns speak English. It takes away a little of their charm but it means that every punch line lands just right. The King (Gordon White) and his court jesters (Michael Garner & Michael Berlanga) are clearly adored by the vast majority.

KOOZA is guaranteed quality from the world’s best circus creatives and a collective of 50 performing artists/super humans, and it’s super fun for the whole family. I would never miss a Cirque show and nor should you.


KOOZA opens tonight!


Cirque du Soleil’s incredible KOOZA opens tonight!

with our own Lisa Skinner




Using very conservative mathematics, Queenslander Lisa Skinner has spent more than 75,000 hours in a unitard; in reality, it’s probably more like over 250,000 hours. That’s a lot of time in lycra.


Brisbane audiences are about to see the result of Lisa’s dedication because this Albany Creek born, world class gymnast and Olympian is about to take over one of the key solo acts – the Aerial Hoop – in the critically acclaimed KOOZA, by Cirque du Soleil, opening in Brisbane on November 24.

“I have spent considerably more time in lycra than I had ever planned when I was young, but I have been lucky enough to have made a career out of what I love doing; out of what I started as a kid in Albany Creek when I was six years old and wanted to learn to do the splits and a handstand!” said Lisa.

Born in Brisbane Lisa began gymnastics at age 6 at Lawnton Academy; she went to Albany Creek Primary School and later she traversed the city each day, from the northside to the south to attend senior school – at Holland Park, because it was close to Chandler sports complex where she trained. For almost ten years Lisa reigned supreme in Australian gymnastics. From her international debut at the 1995 World Championships in Sabae, Japan where she placed 12th with the Australian team, through to 2004 she competed at four World Championships and three Olympic Games (1996 Atlanta; 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens). She held the Australian National Champion title in 1996 and 1997; earned two gold medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and was the highest-ranked Australian WAG athlete at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. She was the country’s most celebrated elite gymnast.

And while she may have shone at three Olympic Games, numerous world championships and won standing ovations for her role in another Cirque du Soleil production in Quidam, this upcoming season of Kooza in Brisbane will be the very first time Lisa Skinner has performed in front of her hometown crowd.


She’s excited, and yes, just a touch nervous.


However, in a twist not unlike some of the breathtaking moves she performs under the Big Top in Kooza, her time in the Cirque du Soleil spotlight almost didn’t happen.

In 1997 when Cirque du Soleil scouts first approached Lisa she turned them down because, she had never seen a Cirque du Soleil show and, “thought joining a circus meant caravans and elephants, and I didn’t want that, I wanted to continue my career as an elite gymnast, to see how far I could go.” It was at the 2004 Athens Olympics that Lisa’s destiny turned.

“By this time I had seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows and had been astounded at every one of them, at the level of excellence, at the generosity of artistic direction, and at the world class standard of acrobatics, costuming and performance involved in each. There were no elephants, just incredible human beings doing extraordinary things!”

She saw the Cirque du Soleil scouts at Athens and this time, she approached them.

She was invited to Cirque du Solei’s General Formation of 2005 – the company’s talent pool sourced from all over the world. But before she could join, she needed not one but two shoulder reconstructions to mend damage caused by years of pushing her body to extremes. “My shoulders were basically held together with tape; and I knew I couldn’t start the new career I really wanted with Cirque du Soleil, without having the operations and focusing on rehabilitation.” She returned home to Brisbane for the operations and recuperated at the family home, still her most loved destination to visit in the world! All up, this took almost a year.

After initial training in Montreal, she was offered a position on Alegrìa in the Power Track Team and later became the dance captain for the cast. Always looking to improve her skills, Lisa challenged her Artistic Director to find her a position on Quidam in one of the shows’ powerful aerial numbers.




In 2010, Lisa joined the Aerial Hoops act on Quidam and toured all over the world with the show. She was in the USA and on a break from Quidam when the call came through a few months ago from Cirque du Soleil – they needed her for Kooza, the Aerial Hoops performer had to leave the show for family reasons for a few months.

“Which city?” she asked.

“Brisbane,” came the reply.

And “yes” was hers.


In Kooza Lisa performs the Aerial Hoops act solo. “This is my first time in a solo act with Cirque du Soleil, and yes, it’s daunting – there is no-one to share the load, no-one to shift focus, the full weight of the audience lies with me – and I guess that’s why they called me, this is what I do, I’ve done it since I was six,” she said.


And so, tonight when Kooza opens in Brisbane, many in the audience will be the people Lisa grew up with, her friends and even those she used to train with, old coaches and car pool drivers. Some will know her as one of the country’s greatest gymnasts. Others may recognise her from medal ceremonies. And there will be fans who applaud her after simply reading her story.

Her family will sit proudly knowing her as the girl who spent far too much time in a unitard.

And thank goodness she did.


KOOZA opens tonight at 8pm. See you there.




Absinthe Tour le Monde


Absinthe Tour Le Monde


King George Square under the Spiegeltent

June 8 – 28 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



ABSINTHE_HandBalance (vert) ©Spiegelworld


Well! THAT HAPPENED. Absinthe Tour Le Monde is here and you might as well get carried along by the hype and go see it because you’ll never believe a single voice that says this is very possibly not the best show you’ll ever see. And that’s okay, because you should always find out for yourself if a thing is your thing.


After several seasons in NYC, a four-year sold-out residency in Las Vegas and a season on top of the Crown Casino in Melbourne, it’s Brisbane’s turn to be entertained and appalled by Spiegelworld’s Absinthe Tour le Monde. It could be the sexiest, most incredible, beautiful show in the world, trumping others of its ilk, including a good portion of Cirque’s older repertoire and the spectacular, truly sexy La Soiree, but it doesn’t come close and it clearly never wanted to be anything like its sophisticated cousins.





If you don’t like to hear the word FUCK then you are at the WRONG FUCKING SHOW.



HA! THAT SETS THE TONE. This show is a seductive, double-headed creature that won’t bite until you get too close to get away. And I mean that literally. In Brisbane the beautiful old-world Spiegeltent seats a crammed 700 so good luck getting outta’ there if you’re offended! Or you suddenly decide that you probs should NOT have brought the 15-year-old despite assurances that it’s suitable for 15+ (What are the mummy bloggers saying about Absinthe? I assure you it’s more appropriately rated 18+ but whatevs. You parent your children your way). Of course, the trick is to drink enough in the garden bar before the show to be carried along by the raucous laughter of the lowest common denominator. If you need to be carried out of there you’ve probs had just enough. CHEERS.






You might decide it’s worth cringing and gasping through the puerile comedy for the sake of the superb acts. The artists are some of the best in the world, there’s no doubt about that, but the bits in between? Well, you’ll have to make up your own mind about this brand of humour. If you’re smack bang in the middle of the target demographic, what I say won’t make a difference to your experience of the show. YOU’LL LOVE IT! But you should know that I’m that person at a party who leaves the party before the last line is snorted, rather than stay past 2am to hear the sort of drunken misogynist, racist, ego-driven drivel we hear from the Gazillionaire and his crass assistant, Abby Bobbins. Of course it’s all an act (OR IS IT?). I know. I’m missing the point.









I’ve never understood the appeal of saying something offensive to get a rise out of people. Or shocking the shit out of audiences with extreme/extremely ridiculous sexual fantasies about unicorns with flaccid penises on their heads that become… no, I can’t even tell you the rest. Like most of the hosts’ segments, this story starts out in a vaguely alluring, mildly amusing manner and then Abby takes it too far. Oh! This is what they mean by “risqué”. I see… I see some audience members on opening night looking a little uncomfortable, and laughing because UNCOMFORTABLE. The other six hundred and seventy-three punters are genuinely laughing to bring the Spiegeltent roof down. WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?






The insults that fly from the Gazillionaire’s mouth are not cleverly subversive, his attitude and his manner are not hip and edgy, and there’s nothing new or insightful or witty or brilliant about any of the racial and religious slurs or cruel observations of audience members. (The inclusion of a lap dance competition is an awkward epic fail on opening night, laughable for all the wrong reasons. BUT EACH PARTICIPANT FROM THE AUDIENCE SCORES A FREE DRINK. SO THAT’S ENTERTAINING ISN’T IT?).


Just as he is supposed to be, Gaz is a filthy-rich, downright filthy philistine, homophobic, sexist and racist. These traits are supposed to be the basis of the character’s appeal. Call me old fashioned or new age or naive, but I don’t see whom this subterranean level of disrespect serves.



For those of us who stay sober throughout the generous pre-show proceedings on opening night, both hosts are offensive and tedious. #ishouldhavedrunkmorechampagne






We suffer through the cheap banter because the skilled artists performing incredible acts of balance and strength and poise are absolutely thrilling to watch, especially at such close range, and they deserve our respect. Likewise, the iconic Kylie-esque Green Fairy (WAAPA graduate, Karla Tonkich) is fabulously raunchy in her tattered wings and very little else, and in fine voice.






Other highlights include the stunning duo straps routine performed with extraordinary elegance and romance by Maika Isogawa and Jacob Oberman, and the sexy schoolgirl – and by sexy schoolgirl I mean hold-your-breath-holy-double-hotness-batman – aerial hoop duo from Germany, Laura von Bongard & Luka Clayborn. The Frat Pack (Paul Lopez, Paul Resell & Olesky Snarskyy) defies gravity on the High Wire, Andrei Sizonenka & Aliasandra Yurkavets defy death, hurling themselves across the horizontal bars, and Gaz’s gorgeous bodyguards (Michael Nowosadko & Zbignew Sobierajski) perform a nonchalant strip and an incredible hand balance routine, the ultimate in precision, strength and control. With over 70 amazing circus artists on his books, Ross Mollison knows how to pick a winner. But it’s clear he doesn’t believe the acts are enough.




Originally directed by Australia’s Wayne Harrison, Absinthe Tour le Monde is a little bit of evil genius with all the mechanisms in place to ensure it will continue to conquer the world. It’s a magic formula that obviously appeals to the masses. I ‘reckon that even if you realise you hate the same crass and unapologetically politically incorrect parts that I find unnecessary, you’ll prefer to remember you loved it. It’s easier. IT’S SO MUCH EASIER THAN BOTHERING TO EXPLAIN WHAT MISSED THE MARK. TRUST ME.




If you haven’t booked your tix yet for Absinthe Tour le Monde, I suggest you pay top dollar to sit ringside, do the whole experience properly (get properly drunk), and proclaim its brilliance. Everybody else is!





Stories From the Sky


Stories From the Sky

Flipside Circus

Judith Wright Centre

April 14 – 18 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 


Fresh-faced, fit and FEARLESS!





Flipside Circus is always great holiday entertainment. We love that the performers are young (aged between 11 and 18) and they are indeed, fearless. Stories From the Sky is testament to the solid training and high level of confidence that translates on stage as zero hesitation when it comes to aerial or wheel apparatus tricks, and no concern about tumbling, leaping and climbing all over each other to create an interesting, challenging and entertaining show for the whole family.


There’s a sense of discovery; of natural exuberance and simple joy in a Flipside show, making it an ideal first circus show for kids and an enjoyable repeat experience.




Poppy and I often take one of her friends to the circus but we had committed to an airport run right after the performance so this time it was a mama-daughter date. Our homestay student’s flight was delayed so we were able to stay and play after the curtain call before meeting her at the domestic terminal. (She went for a week up north, doing all those lovely touristy things that we forget to do because we live here). Poppy leapt at the opportunity to join other young audience members in the Shopfront to have some fun hula hooping and plate spinning. She’s no stranger to the circus, but unlike the performers we saw in the show, she doesn’t practice the tricks for hours each week! In fact, she probably shows vague discipline three times a year: at Flipside, at Circa and at Woodford Folk Festival! Our philosophy is clearly, “No pressure. Keep it fun.”




The loose thread running through this production is the notion that we all have our own stories and we are each our own story. Each performer has their story, which they share with us at various intervals throughout the show. A microphone descends from above and there is opportunity for comedy as it is raised and lowered and the kids contort their bodies to speak into it. The stories are simple and lovely and funny, and it’s good to hear confident, natural voices. It’s easy to forget that our bodies and voices are connected!





don't forget to play

Before the show we were given the opportunity to fold paper airplanes, which we were told we would need during the performance. When the time came I heard kids who didn’t want to give up their planes, and kids who wanted to run down to the stage and retrieve their planes. Poppy proudly launched hers and laughed when it twirled and turned back to us, landing in the lap of a mum sitting in the row in front. Tonight we’re off to see Matthew Ryan’s new play, Brisbane. (Another mama-daughter date to coincide with the adventures of #niciinthecity). Watching Stories From the Sky I thought of the hero shot for Brisbane; Dash Kruck gleefully “flying” a wooden plane and of the playwright’s note, “We all want back what is lost.” (You can read the program online thanks to QTC’s greenification of the company’s operations). It strikes me that Stories From the Sky is a gentle reminder that it doesn’t take much to get back a bit of what is lost.






I love the joy of the duo work and the strength and trust of the ensemble work. The tissu is (once again) Poppy’s favourite act, and we are both blown away by the balance, focus, power and promise of vibrant fifteen-year-old gymnast/contortionist/aerialist, Riley. What an entertainer! Riley is a wonder and it will be no wonder to see him featured in professional circus in this country. Circus is clearly his THING.




Cirque du Soleil is renowned for offering exquisite art, athleticism and escapism at an elite level but it’s from within the ranks of dedicated companies such as Flipside that it begins.


Flipside Circus offers full training and school holiday workshops just for fun. The Performance Program offers 8 – 18 year olds the chance to develop advanced circus skills and perform in the annual production.


Stories From the Sky must finish Saturday. Book here.








Cirque du Soleil

Under the Big Top at Northshore, Hamilton

April 10 – May 24 1015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


We are the primeval waters from which we have emerged…


There’s always a buzz around a Cirque premiere, but this time is different; the atmosphere is electric! Thanks to Brisbane Publicist, Kath Rose (she is perpetually awake and working; you will have seen her as a dazzling, brightly dressed BLUR at all the best events in the city) Poppy and I were invited to join a pre-show “behind the seams” backstage tour. See what they did there? You can see our behind the scenes pics on InstagramTotem’s Tour Publicist, Francis Jalbert (equally as dazzling, perfectly suited to the role, raising the bar by Olympic standards as far as male publicists go. Impressive casting hiring there…) talked about the creative process, with Director Robert LePage at the helm, shaping the show and bringing in the disciplines to best “fit” the production concept.



Each unique act in Totem takes us through a particular aspect of the evolution of the human body or of civilization or the experience of a human life.






“It’s all about evocation… It’s art. Everybody can have their own interpretation.”


Francis Jalbert, Totem Tour Publicist



Cirque du Soleil TOTEM Dress Rehearsal



The opening of the show sees Crystal Man (David Resnick from the USA) descend in rich beams of light that make a human disco ball of him; he’s a legitimate living work of art in this transient state. He unlocks the ancient secret of sacred ritual in a variation of Indonesia’s Kecak “fire and trance” Dance. The dance stems from sanghyang, the notion that during the performance, spiritual entities known as hyangs will take possession of the dancers’ bodies. I was fifteen, mesmerized, when I saw this dance for the first time in Bali. In Totem, we enjoy the ritual for just a few moments as it’s performed inside a giant tortoise shell structure (the tortoise is an age-old symbol of creation and wisdom – think of The Neverending Story!), which lifts into the air. Is this the sun rising, rather than setting? The Kecak Dance is traditionally performed before sunset. It doesn’t matter; there is acrobatic action beneath it!



This is a beautifully measured and entirely unexpected opening to a show exploring evolution, connection and beauty. It’s as if Crystal Man has been created to embody a new – or revived – Cirque spirit.



Poppy and I have seen the ecosystem, the little city created by the hardworking Cirque crew before. Whenever my sister does a stint as Stage Manager for a Cirque show she takes us on a similar tour to meet all those folk clad in “blacks”; the people behind the people we see on stage. It’s a very intimate experience to see first hand, the training and warm up areas, the artists training and warming up (and sometimes practicing acts that are not even a part of the show because Cirque supports all aspects of the development of their discipline), to hold a costume and feel its weight (Crystal Man’s bodysuit with its 4 500 Swarovski crystals!), and gaze upon the MAC makeup drawers (ooh!), and masks (ahhh!) and headpieces (wow!) and props (oh migod!). Of course this insight allows another level of understanding when we see the show. Simultaneously, I appreciate that we’re watching with new awe and admiration, and I have the knowledge that there is a crystal or two missing from the costume! Don’t worry, it’s all about running repairs – nobody backstage actually appears to stop working, ever – and every costume is replaced every 6 months.






I love Kym Barrett’s designs for this show. Barrett’s a Brisbane girl (known for her contribution to The Matrix trilogy, The Amazing Spider-Man and Jupiter Ascendingand her combination of sparkles, glow-in-the-dark Australian Indigenous traditional patterns and natural elements is truly inspired. You might never have considered it but the hard, crushable features sewn into some of the costumes, such as the cowrie shells, are actually necessarily silicon, because CIRCUS.


Just as the acts themselves pay homage to the cultures that have inspired them, the costumes honour where they’ve come from. It’s the most exquisite collection we’ve seen here.






Once the glittering green amphibious creatures have emerged from the primordial mud, we’re introduced to primates and Cro-Magnons. We see the evolutionary stages in one succinct scene, which ultimately suggests that perhaps we’ve not come quite so far as we like to think! More familiar looking Neanderthals (France’s Gael Ouisse & Yann Arnaud, and Finland’s Olli Torkkel) make their way down to the beach to impress whatever passes by, which happens to be the most beautiful muscle-bound woman on the planet! Holy! In an awesome display of strength and grace, Ukranian Alevtyna Titarenko reverses the traditional seduction scene, deftly steals it with her superb performance on the rings and takes off with an Italian clown (Jon Monastero from the USA)!



It was spectacular. They were STRONG.

Henry Long



The clowns don’t miss a mention; their acts are the short, sweet and very funny transitions between the more physical acts. These guys also provide the pre-show entertainment, mixing with the crowd and – this is new since our last Cirque experience, when even before the show I’m sure photography was not encouraged – happily posing for selfies with audience members. Obviously, as you see from their Insta gallery and Twitter & Facebook footprints, Cirque is another company who totally get the value of their social media presence, and the advantage of their audience doing a large part of their marketing!


Just be sure to use the hashtags so they can include your stellar work on the social media wall at interval! #totem #cirquedusoleil






The traditional Amerindian Hoop Dance has seen some evolution itself. The hoops represent many things (snakes, the wings of eagles, butterflies etc), and unlike hula “hooping”, modesty is key; the dancer wears traditional dress. In Totem, of course the dance and the costumes are modified, with respect, to suit the creative concept of the show. These dances, performed by Shandien Sonwai Larance (USA) & Eric Hernandez (USA), are beautiful, soulful pieces with a steady heartbeat that reminds us to keep challenging every pre-conceived notion about cultures that are not our own.



Having said that, Poppy just loved the sensation of the drumming in her chest and told me she remembered seeing a Hoop Dance at The Dreaming one year “when I was just a kid and hadn’t seen all that many shows” #whatevs



Reaping abundant harvests, we sow seeds of gratitude.






The ultimate balancing act, five unicyclists (China’s Hao Yuting, He Xuedi, Wu Yurong, Yang Ji & Bai Xiangjie) kick and catch and balance brass bowls in perfect synchronization whilst cycling and SMILING. This is an incredible act, eliciting gasps from the opening night audience in Brisbane. It has to be seen to be believed!



We also marvel at the most elegant and athletic foot juggling ever (Marina & Svetlana Tsodikova from Belarus), LED lit vortex juggling (Chris Chiappini from the USA) and human juggling: the incredible, death defying Russian Bars. These acrobats, in their black lit bodysuits featuring Barrett’s take on those stunning Aboriginal designs, are the cosmonauts of the show, taking evolution to the next stage, daring to go where no acrobat has gone before.






As impressive as each act is, my favourite is the Lovebirds (French Guilhem Cauchois & Canadian Sarah Tessier). These two perform a fixed trapeze routine that goes far beyond traditional circus, bringing sky-high drama and simple, subtle, beautifully coy comedy to the story their characters share; a gorgeous young couple meet for the first time (in an extraordinarily beautiful golden wash! Never underestimate the value of a good lighting state!). And speaking of young and gorgeous, is this not the youngest, most runway-worthy Cirque company of all time?! Talk about inspiring! #orintimidating #putthemonacatwalkalready


That reminds me, when does Baz get a go at a Cirque show? #justasking





The dynamic between the trapeze duo was really interesting to watch. It seemed really playful.

Ayla Long





Extraordinary love knows no bounds.








Lovers – rollerskaters – disembark from a canoe in a projected land of ice and freezing, rushing water (the footage was shot in Iceland!), spinning together on a tiny platform until “they finally unite in the ultimate act of trust”! It’s exciting and terrifying and thrillifying to watch these two (Spain’s Denise Garcia-Sorta & Italy’s Massimiliano Medini). Not EVEN in Xanadu did we ever see such sexy freakin’ rollerskating, although we saw the spinning on the tiny platform. There will be a resurgence in rollerskate sales, let me tell you. (And while we’re here, let’s remember, how gorgeous is Olivia in all her Blondie-ness? And how good is ELO?! My dad will tell you! AND I never saw it so I’ve never understood…but how did the stage production fail? Perhaps Cirque could produce a winning version? Just a thought!).



If creation is borne of vibration, then music is life’s ultimate form.



A Cirque show is nothing without its musical score and Totem sounds fantastic. Yes, we bought the CD (we still buy CDs). From a lush bamboo forest, which becomes grass and later, with the changes in lighting states, reeds, the vocalists (the UK’s Esi Kwesiwa Acquaah-Harrison & Canada’s Christian Leveau) and musicians come into view from time to time, offering pure magic throughout, from Composers BOB & BILL (Guy Dubuc & Marc Lessard with additional lyrics by Christian Laveau).



Often, an opening night audience is a little more reserved than those that follow and I wonder whether or not the finale – a joyous Bollywood style celebration of cultures – will get people to their feet and dancing for the rest of the season. As you would expect, my Bollywood fairy princess party animal Poppy leapt up at the first opportunity (having discovered three acts into the show that her wooden heels made an awesome sound on the floor beneath our feet!), and stomped and showered everyone with her own shimmering love and radiant smile. This was a fitting finale; vibrant, contagious, unadulterated joy. Clearly, we all need more Bollywood (and Cirque du Soleil!) in our lives!



It’s impossible to choose which act was the best!

Ayla Long






Totem is the most evocative of the Cirque shows we’ve seen in this country since Quidam. And I’ll be honest; Quidam was my first. You never forget your first! Totem has more substance than Ovo and is as much fun as Saltimbanco, never actually bombarding us with a particularly profound or heavy message but rather, painting a picture and implying it, allowing us to peer into its world of heightened natural beauty and history and humour and wonder, from which we can then take what we need. JUST LIKE REAL LIFE. It’s light and gentle and playful and lovely in every aspect, from its ingenious design solutions to its unique acts. It will feed your soul and lift your spirits. I would LOVE to see this one again. (Poppy’s birthday coincides with closing night so you never know…).



If you need to disappear for an afternoon or a night, unwind and relax at a show, or entertain family members, friends or special guests, or if you’re simply weighing up what to spend the play money on this month, don’t hesitate… get thee to Totem. A Cirque du Soleil show is an experience you’ll cherish. And Totem is exceptional entertainment. Take a break from this weary one and lose yourself in Cirque’s world for a night!



Totem is about life.




Guy Laliberte – Guide & Founder


Robert LePage – Writer & Director


Gilles Ste-Croiz – Artistic Guide


Neilson Vignola – Director of Creation


Luc Tremblay – Senior Director


Neelanthi Vadivel – Artistic Director


Kym Barrett – Costume Designer


Nathalie J. Simard – Makeup designer


Carl Fillion – Set & props Designer


Etienne Boucher – Lighting designer


Pedro Pires – Projection Content Designer


Jacques Boucher – Sound Designer


Jeffrey Hall – Choreographer


Florence Pot – Acrobatic Performance Designer