Artful Musing

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Be a child again and sit mesmerized at the magic of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem

Naturally, I was especially dazzled by the trapeze artists during the recent opening night performance of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem in the tent called The Grand Chapiteau pitched next to the Canadian Tire Centre.

As a child, I longed to run away and join the circus, preferably as a trapeze artist. Alas, the circus never came to town. My town was too small. My big dream was never fulfilled. Consequently, every chance I get, I stare in wonderment and jealousy at the trapeze artists in a travelling circus.

The Totem performers did not disappoint. High above the sellout crowd, Guilhem Cauchois and Sarah Tessier performed a death-defying, erotic, and sometimes comedic routine on a fixed trapeze.

Just when you thought Tessier was about to hurtle to the ground (actually to the safety of a thick bouncy mattress) Cauchois would catch her and then twirl her around a few times, toss her in the air and catch her again. The crowd “oohed” and “ahhed” throughout the performance.

The stage itself is a wonder to behold. Photo courtesy Crique de Soleil.

Actually, you could say the crowed “oohed” and “ahhed” throughout the two-hour show and buzzed with excitement during the half-hour intermission. There were five young women riding tall unicycles, juggling silver bowls and tossing them to land perfectly on the heads of each other. There were hoop dancers, acrobats of all types, goofy clowns, and even a magic act of sorts by a mad scientist.

And not to be forgotten is the stage, a great performer itself. The back part of the stage sloped upwards. Projected images could turn that stage into an ocean, a desert, an erupting volcano or whatever bit of geography that was needed. A central panel in that sloped stage could elevate to provide a raised dias for singers, dancers, or jugglers.

There is a narrative running through Totem, but don't waste your time trying to follow the plot. Just sit back and be amazed! Photo courtesy Cirque de Soleil.

Totem was written and directed by Robert Lepage, Canada’s reigning stage wizard. Lepage is known for his ingenuous theatre sets and daring staging. Totem was another one of his marvels.

There is a narrative running through Totem that traces the evolution of humans from their ape-like beginnings to contemporary, high-tech days. But it is a confusing narrative that takes many detours and reversals. In other words, don’t waste your time trying to follow a storyline. Simply become a child again and sit awestruck for two hours as circus performers do the impossible over and over again. They will leave you gobsmacked. They will make you wish that you had run away as a child to become a trapeze artist.

Totem continues at a site beside the Canadian Tire Centre until Aug. 4. 

~Paul Gessell