BWW REVIEW: Cirque Du Soleil Brings The Beauty And Magic Of Pandora To Life In TORUK: THE FIRST FLIGHT
Thursday 19th October 2017, 8pm, QUDOS Bank Arena
Acclaimed Canadian circus troupe Cirque du Soleil brings James Cameron's world of Pandora to life with their Arena spectacular TORUK: THE FIRST FLIGHT. Combining Cirque du Soleil's signature skills of drawing audiences into new worlds with an intricate combination of circus skills, music, costumes and sets, Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon (Show Writers and Directors and Multimedia Directors) present a prequel of sorts to the 2009 Academy Award winning movie AVATAR.
Created under The Combined guidance of Guy Laliberte and Jean-Francois Bouchard for Cirque du Soleil and Lightstorm Entertainment's Jon Landau, James Cameron, Kathy Franklin and Richie Baneham, TORUK: THE FIRST FLIGHT takes the audience back to the fictional moon Pandora, only this new work is set well before the humans of AVATAR discovered the nature driven blue Na'vi 'people'. With a story that plays out like the myths and legends that make up earth's own tribal stories, this expansive work, which spills out of the stadium stage and into the audience, tells the story of three young Na'vi who join together to seek out the Totems from the various Na'vi clans that will enable a pure soul to ride the gigantic TORUK who can help them save the sacred Tree of Souls.
Carl Fillion (Set and Props Designer) has created a beautiful textured space, inspired by nature, for the Na'vi to tell their story. Paired with stunning projections cast on all surfaces, from the central 'island', green belt that boarders the island, giant base of the Omatikaya Hometree and large lateral screens each side of the tree, Fillion's set is transformed from lush rainforests to sparse tundras and the floating mountains. As with nature, there are no straight lines and everything has a natural organic feel with even the Chinese Poles for the Tipani tribe to climb are not entirely smooth. Kym Barrett's costume and makeup design also draws on the organic environment to cloth the Na'vi in garments that appear to be created out of leaves, vines, seeds, feathers and fur with 'skin of striped blue.
As another nod to the naturalistic stylings, Puppet designer Patrick Martel has also designed the puppets to be manually manipulated rather than utilising electronic devices to portray creatures that include the 6 legged Viperwolves, absurd looking Turtapede and most memorably the Great Leonopteryx - the Toruk. Some puppets are worn, some are held or pushed but the most stunning are the kites which fly over the audience, controlled by the puppeteers who fit with the Na'vi aesthetic by way of shape but are 'hidden' in black.
TORUK: THE FIRST FLIGHT draws on tribal beats and meditative trancelike vocals, paired with recorded soundtracks to round out the experience. Whilst the solo percussionist is often situated around the stage, somewhat in The Shadows, the piece on the central island, joined by acrobatic aerialists that add further beats from high in the Dream Catcher is impressive. The vocals provided by a solo singer who moves around the space provides an ethereal energy and calmness.
Whilst the work is visually stunning, the deep space of the stadium staging does result in some of the detail being lost as they eye is overwhelmed with where to look. It provides depth for perspective to give the impression of the size of the Omatikaya Hometree but the skill of the Na'vi climbing its roots are not immediately noticeable to the audience at the other end of the stadium. The impact of the projections that provide detail to the ridges and valleys around the central island is also diminished for any audience situated in the first level, closest to the stage as the seating lacks the necessary height to look down into the stage. Whilst seats as close to the stage are usually recommended for circus works, the middle level seats are possibly better to get an overall view of the action and absorb the full impact of the changing floor projections. The preshow information was also promoting an accompanying smartphone App for audience members to download to 'enhance' the experience. Whilst neither the BWWSydney reviewer or their guest could get the App to do anything, not even recognise which seat they were in, it does seem odd to promote looking at a smartphone screen during a live performance.
TORUK: THE FIRST FLIGHT is a beautiful night out for fans of James Cameron's AVATAR and those familiar with the genius of Cirque du Soleil. With a somewhat simple storyline, narrated by the Storyteller, this work is accessible to audiences of all ages.
QUDOS BANK ARENA
19 October -29 October 2017