Prove your humanity

Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk—The First Flight, inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), has officially arrived in Perth, and while it doesn’t deliver the classic Cirque du Soleil experience, it will you leave you utterly enchanted.

Toruk focuses on two Na’vi boys, Ralu (Jordan Delvingt and Jeremiah Hughes) and Entu (Daniel Crispin and Guillaume Paquin), of the Omatikaya clan and their friend Tsyal (Gabrielle Martin and Zoé Sabattié) of the Tawkami clan, as they embark on a perilous journey to save the Tree of Souls from a prophesised fire. They must unite the five Na’vi clans, collect sacred talismans and ride the deadly Toruk in order to save the clans and preserve their connection to the deity, Eywa.

Through the use of masterful puppetry, pulsing music and breathtaking visuals the Avatar inspired narrative is brought to life in the familiar, yet transformed, world of Pandora.

Respect for the creative choices of James Cameron and his team, while avoiding replication, is evident through the costume and staging selections that reflect elements of Avatar. A balance of inspiration and new exploration is key to the success and allure of Toruk, as simply duplicating Avatar would have resulted in an unimaginative performance and restricted Cirque du Soleil’s ability to create a refreshing re-imagining that plays with audience expectations.

Patrick Martel, the puppet designer for Toruk, said “Not only did we want to please Avatar fans, we wanted to surprise them too.”

Avatar was an overwhelming visual display that made for an incredibly immersive viewing experience while exhibiting the progression of technology—leading filmmakers into uncharted, and previously unimaginable, territory. So, Toruk had big shoes to fill.

“Set changes, which sometimes occur in the wink of an eye, are not mechanical, but optical,” says writer and director Michel Lemieux. This is echoed by Victor Pilon, who fulfills the same creative roles as Lemieux: “It’s the language of film applied to the performing arts.”

Cirque du Soleil has gone all-out to create a visual spectacle that cannot be easily forgotten; with video and light effects that react to the movements of performers and multimedia projections conveying the stunning landscapes of Pandora that overflow onto the crowd, Toruk creates a visually magical and immersive experience—akin to that of Avatar.Although breathtakingly beautiful, the exhilarating stunts that Cirque du Soleil is famous for are relatively underwhelming in Toruk. There is an abundance of acrobatic and fluid movement, used to convey the agility and strength of the Na’vi, with dramatic floorwork, well-choreographed fight scenes, and the occasional acrobatic spectacle. The Omatikyaya clan scale ropes to execute aerial acrobatics, the Anurai perform the classic Cirque du Soleil showcase of balance and flexibility while on a moving skeleton, and the Tipani manipulate poles to symbolise a ritualistic battle. These performances are the closest Toruk gets to Cirque du Soleil’s traditional acts that thrill and inspire. But they cannot compare. The show is focused on creating a more theatrical experience with an emphasis on narrative, which is often obscured or nonexistent in Cirque du Soleil shows. A narrator or ‘Na’vi Storyteller’ (Raymond O’Neill and Priscilia Le Foll) is even present to tell the story and interpret the Na’vi tongue.

If you are anticipating spellbinding and suspenseful performances of an extremely high caliber then I would suggest booking tickets to another Cirque du Soleil show. But, if you’re searching for a visual masterpiece and a unique stage-show experience, Toruk will draw you in to an enchanting world and exceed your wildest expectations.

Toruk—The First Flight is being performed at Perth Arena, with a matinee at 12pm on December 2.