Totem’s The Big Tops.

Totem’s The Big Tops.

Reviewed by: Douglas Kennedy
Cirque du Soleil: Totem. The Grand Chapiteau. Hamilton. Various Acts. Directed by Robert Lepage. Season ends May 24.

The French-Canadian mega-marvel, Cirque du Soleil, is back in Brisbane with a show, Totem, that’s being hailed as the biggest to ever hit these shores.

It is certainly a breath-taking display of acrobatics and choreography from a company, which boasts the title biggest of its kind in the world.

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The familiar Cirque du Soleil hallmarks are all there including eye-catching costumes, distinctive European-style clowns, haunting music (played by on-site musicians), cutting edge acrobatics and a narrative thread that’s both obvious and elusive.

This time around it’s the evolution of mankind with a potpourri of types from a Darwinesque theme park including Neanderthals, monkeys, bizarre humans, scientists and futuristic types.

Director Robert Lepage has squeezed in a parade of sublime athletes and acrobatics who surely must be among the best in the world.


There’s women on unicycles, juggling, balls and cones between each other, Native Americans with hoops, acrobats in cages above the ground, trapeze acts and mad scientists juggling balls in bubbles.

These immensely talented individuals are buffeted by clowns, dancers and singers who create a rest bite between the thrills and spills (all carefully orchestrated).

However, overall the Cirque du Soleil trademark prevails in look and mood firming with ever visit to Australia since 2001 (The original Canadian brand was created in the early ‘80s).

Having seen four or five shows in the past decade, I must admit to feeling a little jaded at the thought of another, but the magic of this company weaves its spell when the lights go down.


This time around I saw the show – Totem – with someone who had never seen Cirque du Soleil before and that gave my circus experience extra bite as she gazed in wonder and left the tent with a jaw nearly touching the floor.

The award-winning company – that has performed for royalty, celebrity and millions of ordinary folk – is presently playing 18 shows around the worlds.

There’s all sorts of reports on the web that it’s facing cost cutting issues, but I am confident this unique entertainment will prevail.

The Brisbane season is well under way, but the show will be here until May24.

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