Toruk − The First Flight at the O2 Arena
Cirque du Soleil delves into new territory with its lavish presentation Toruk – The First Flight, created by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, at London’s O2 Arena. Inspired by James Cameron’s epic movie fantasy Avatar – taking us to the land of Pandora – it is a visually stunning, highly innovative multimedia extravaganza with enormous colourful props, huge puppets and phenomenal acrobatics. As a bonus to enhance the experience, a Toruk app is available for viewers to download on their phones.
In dynamic rock concert style, the show opens with an explosion of percussion (Daudet Fabrice Grazai), and the energy never abates as we follow the story of three teenagers on a mission to retrieve five artefacts in order to save the Tree of Souls and rescue the indigenous Na’vi people from Toruk the flying monster.
Gorgeous puppets (Patrick Martel) controlled by the performers dominate the stage – in contrast to the pure physicality of traditional Cirque du Soleil productions. The principal human characters – portraying blue humanoids – speak in the fantasy language of the Na’vi, with occasional forays into English. Plentiful dialogue with microphones is another departure from Cirque tradition. 40 video projectors display the piece, accompanied by breathtaking cinematic sound. Acrobatic stunts are fewer than in previous shows, but are as impressively heroic. Battles are choreographed as forms of dance.
Enhanced by Alain Lortie’s outstanding lighting, superlative effects and imagery abound (set designer Carl Fillion), including video projections of floating mountains, verdant jungles, enormous flowers, giant waves moving across the audience, crashing onto the stage and “flooding” it, a massive island and extraordinary surreal creatures manned by puppeteers. A classic element in the history of slapstick humour – a comedic Monty Python-esque moment features two men inside a horse puppet.
Toruk – The First Flight is actually a prequel to Avatar, and will particularly please fans of Cameron’s film, but is also thrilling in its own right for those who have never seen the movie. Whereas the latter involved humans attacking the non-human indigenous population, here the Na’vi are under threat from forces of nature. With by far the largest collection of puppets in the company’s history, Cirque du Soleil’s latest accomplishment is a superbly entertaining cutting-edge creation, amazing to watch and a feast for the senses.
Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil
Watch the trailer for Toruk: The First Flight here: