Totem an evolved circus

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 12:02 23/08/2014

Totem by Cirque du Soleil

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Thirty years on, Cirque du Soleil's street-theatre origins are all but forgotten - the travelling Canadian-based troupe now boasts 4,000 employees from 50 nations and that size is reflected in the ambition of its first show to hit Auckland in five years.

REVIEW: Director Robert Lepage's extravagant Totem is loosely themed on man's evolution, although Darwin wouldn't necessarily recognise the narrative.

A scientist, a flamboyant Italian tourist, a caveman and a monkey are the audience's guides through a show in which the star is perhaps the amazing set, a feat of hydraulics which defies description but allows quickfire shifts in time and space complemented by the marvellous costuming.

This is slick, not-a-foot-wrong stuff which leaves the audience wondering exactly how many hours of rehearsal it takes to be this note-perfect.

Foot jugglers, a whirling couple on roller skates, and a remarkable pair of acrobats leaping from moving flexible platforms were highlights.

At times, however, the shift between this traditional acrobatics and the rather old-fashioned physical comedy seemed to jar (in saying that, my 13 year old thought these were the best parts of the show).

Certainly, what elicited the most gasps from the enthusiastic audience was the straightforward feats of incredible athleticism - in particular, the five ladies on unicycles flicking bowls from their feet on to each other's heads.

The cirque's huge blue -and-yellow tent will sit at the Alexandra Park racecourse in Auckland until September 28.

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