Here’s a first. A Cirque du Soleil production in London that’s almost brand new. Totem comes hotfoot from Canada via Amsterdam, before heading to the US. Geographically, it makes no sense, but it’s about time we got a look in.
Louis-David Simoneau and Rosalie Ducharme in Totem at Royal Albert Hall Photo: Daniel Desmarais
Having created the Las Vegas show Ka for the company in 2004, Robert Lepage - onstage himself in the capital next month in The Blue Dragon - has unsurprisingly been given a second crack of the whip.
Using a hotchpotch evolution-of-man theme, he introduces amphibians, apes and cavemen, as well as contemporary beach bums, business suits and spacemen.
As usual with Lepage, there is a set of astounding technical wizardry, incorporating a plain circular stage, backed by a sloping platform fringed with reeds. Film projections cunningly magic this into rivers and rocks, mud-swamp, seashore and lakeside, and its articulated mid-section becomes a bridge, boat and totem pole.
But what of the acts? Dazzling in Swarovski crystal-encrusted costumes, identical twins Marina and Svetlana Tsodikova present their scintillating and skilful foot-juggling number. Looking exquisite, their moves are precise and elegantly performed as they spin glittering mats on upturned hands and feet.
In contrast, Rosalie Ducharme and Louis-David Simoneau wear pared-down yellow outfits for their witty and playful static trapeze act. Their routine is fresh and exciting and includes some breathtaking drops and catches. And Alegria’s superb Russian bar troupe has a couple of new faces and exotic new costumes but broadly similar tricks. Simply stunning, but deja vu.
The unicyclists and clown Mika Usov shine, but others, such as the Khaylafov perch pole troupe, are shoehorned in uncomfortably.
Apparently Lepage objects to being called a genius, though it’s usually so apt. Totem has spectacular moments, but it is as much Olympic opening ceremony - reliant on first nations’ sequences - as circus extravaganza, and much of it goes on for far too long.