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Toruk - The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil - Review

Home > Brisbane > Fun Things To Do | Music | Performing Arts | Theatre
by John Andrew (subscribe)
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There is only one Cirque

Once again we made the pilgrimage to the wetlands with thousands of our kind, filling the Brisbane Entertainment Centre with an excited audience, eagerly awaiting spectacle, colour, razamataz, showmanship, risk, and superlatively trained bodies with apparent ease performing gymnastic impossibilities.

Many of us remembered Kooza last November.

We thrilled to a double high wire act – two bicycles crossing the wire with a pole between them on which balances a chair on top of which an acrobat does a one-armed handstand.

We gasped, as two large cylinders rotated high in the air, while inside them, and then on top of them, two acrobats run, skip, somersault and in many other ways challenge gravity. Was the heart-stopping stumble real, or an act? The capacity audience will never know, but the sound of thousands of people gasping in shock and suspense was sign enough that they cared and were transfixed by the spectacle. And that gasp was to be heard again and again.

We heard a superb backing band – I couldn't believe it was only eight people – and every single act being world-class – and we had a show that your humble reviewer feels was the best of the four he had to that point been fortunate enough to see.

So how does Toruk compare?

At the interval, we caught up with a High School student, at her first Cirque performance. Her excitement and joy was palpable. "Just wonderful" she said. And it was clear that her wonder and excitement were shared by the capacity audience.

Toruk has wonderful components. The music is simply beautiful, with Celtic and Arabic overtones. No canned background music here. The live singers and the band alone are worth the trip.

The dancers/athletes are as lithe and amazing as ever – but there is almost no sense of their being dangerously "near the edge". Perhaps it is the choice of linking story that constrains the variety of costume (there is a lot of blue) and lessens the excuse for high-wire exhibitionism.

The story follows two close friends on an epic Tolkien-like quest to find five "talismans" which will give them control of the fearsome flying predator (Toruk) and enable them to save their Tree of Life from destruction. In this climate-change era the theme of saving a fragile and threatened infrastructure has a strong resonance.

There are, if you like, five stages of the quest, which gives the choreographers the chance to create five contrasting set pieces. All are beautiful, mesmeric, and magical.

There are highlights which are stunningly intricate and beautiful.

Seemingly floating in the air, with huge fan-like extensions of multicoloured materials, the performers create an exquisite aerial ballet intricately woven between flying birds (on the end of long sticks). That this does not end up in a tangle of ropes and wires is a tribute to skill, training and precision.

As we watch, seemingly effortlessly, the performers assemble a massive dinosaur-like skeleton, which then becomes a giant see-saw, with five contortionists and gymnasts beautifully making the impossible happen in time to hypnotic music.

A canoe glides over what moments ago was solid earth, but has all the appearance of water. A miniature tsunami engulfs the arena. Using a Toruk "app" hundreds of mobile phones flash colour from the audience.

It is almost impossible to over-use the word "magical" for what we were seeing.

And yet -- Marc Barnadin, in the LA Times, says

"At its best, Cirque is about the synthesis of form, strength, grace and balance. It's about the tension that results when you pit will against physics. Trying to spot-weld a narrative — especially one more complex than a kid who imagines a fantasy world — onto that only distances an audience from what it came for: acrobats, gymnasts and strongmen doing things the human body shouldn't be able to do."

This is the fifth "Cirque" performance that your aged reviewer and his friends have been privileged to see.

Would we recommend it?


This is "Cirque" after all – music, choreography, spectacle, dance, acrobatics, extravaganzas of light and sound.

Mortgage the kids, sell the cat and just go!

And yet – it is my hope that next time Cirque have a theme which is less constricting and sets them free to showcase their undoubted talents even more.

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Why? Simply the best
When: until 15th Octover
Where: Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Cost: $77 - $280
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