Cirque du Soleil’s ’Totem’
Cirque du Soleil’s "Totem," written and directed by Robert Lepage, is an eccentric look at evolution, incorporating an array of cultures and acrobatic styles. While the dominant underpinning is African, given human evolution finds its roots on the continent, each scene represents a unique era and locality. French-style humor is blended throughout the performance, grounding the production in the playful circus tradition.
The acrobatics throughout the show are breathtaking. Russian bar artists leap between beams with impeccable grace and balance. Hoop dancers perform interlocked feats that would leave a physicist blinking. Even roller skaters are utilized in one of the most unique and intense scenes of the production. The crowd especially enjoyed a series of surf-inspired aerial artists, although their Greek god aesthetic may have been a contributing factor in the thunderous applause.
While some may question the use of slapstick comedy in a production centering on the complexity of evolved life, the audience didn’t seem to mind a bit. Sprinkled between acrobatic scenes were brief skits featuring a madcap clown whose uninhibited mania and impeccable physical comic timing was unusually clever.
Aside from the impressive acrobatics, the set and stage design is highly innovative. Intricate lighting effects are used to create the appearance of hard surfaces becoming liquid, while the stage itself has the ability to robotically move between acts to suit the needs of various performers. Elaborate set-pieces were able to be constructed and moved at lightning speed throughout the show. The Scientist’s scene contains a series of impressive visuals as a juggler manipulates extravagant LED-lit balls (representing molecules) from within a giant beaker as portions of the stage appear to literally bubble.
"Totem" features a complete live band. Rhythmic tribal music comprises most of the show, and the stellar vocal performances were an unexpected surprise. The band also incorporates stylistic flourishes from various cultures, complementing the visual performances with an aural specificity.
The show is a crowd-pleaser from start to finish. Arresting visuals and world-class acrobatics combine to create the best the circus has to offer in Cirque du Soleil’s impressive "Totem."
"Totem" plays through July 22 at the Marine Industrial Park in Boston. Tickets can be purchased here.