CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: TOTEM™ | London, Royal Albert Hall

Cirque du Soleil is the number one name in circus, and with so many shows, it makes all the more astonishing that they manage to dazzle so consistently. Loosely based upon the idea of human evolution, progress and communion with the animal world, Cirque du Soleil’s TOTEM™ (2010) glitters and tumbles its way through countless millennia of human history.

The acrobatics are jaw-dropping in the most literal sense of the word. A team of women on astronomically high unicycles catch a flurry of bowls on their heads in perfect unison. A trapeze artist dangles beneath her partner with only her heel in his grasp. A cascade of performers in full-body frog suits spin around a bar in astounding synchronicity, milimetres from collision at every moment.

This is a show in which production value is as a holy word: the production design (Carl Fillion, Kym Barrett) is magnificent, while every move of the performers is perfectly timed to match the gorgeous soundtrack (Guy Dubuc, Marc Lessard: “Bob & Bill”) and rippling projections (Pedro Pires).

In fact, TOTEM™ glitters rather more than one imagines the primal sludge must have done. The historical inaccuracies continue into appropriating and exoticising all kinds of Native American costumes and culture, by a predominantly white cast and creative team, for a predominantly white, middle class audience. It’s unclear why, over the past decade of touring, Cirque du Soleil have not addressed these problematic elements, which tarnish what is otherwise a spectacular night at the circus.

Cirque Du Soleil’s TOTEM™ remains at the Royal Albert Hall until 26 February 2019.

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