Cirque du Soliel’s Toruk-The First Flight is based on the James Cameron film Avatar and is set before the events portrayed in that movie. It has been touring the country since last fall and made a stop in Cincinnati for a run of shows in early May.
It was difficult to tell if the crowd at the US Bank Arena on opening night were fans of the movie, fans of Cirque, or perhaps both. In any case, the show is far less “Cirquey” than the troupes more widely known performances such as the Vegas-based O, Mystere, and even Love, the Beatles-inspired production. That being said, there are a few impressive acrobatic numbers, but nothing on the scale of the other shows.
Toruk relies much more on storytelling along with theatrics and clever production values along with a little puppetry. With more real estate available in an arena setting, Toruk is the kind of show that can really stretch out and breathe, while still remaining faithful to what Cirque does best. Most of the stunning effects are computer generated and projected on the performance space.
The show starts with The Storyteller, an Anurai, explaining that the tale the audience is about to witness happened long ago. Unlike other Cirque shows, there’s quite a bit of English spoken, though the other three characters speak in their native Pandoran tongue. The tale is that of two young heroes, Ralu and Entu, who must traverse the planet Pandora to collect five sacred objects from each of the five major clans in order to save their world from destruction. They are joined by the lovely Tsyal. The trio, of course, has a few ups and downs in their quest which fortunately for the audience proves to be quite thrilling.
Knowledge of Avatar does not seem to be a prerequisite to enjoying the show, though fans of the film will probably get more out of it. The show continues to tour North America through October before heading to Asia. The show in Raleigh, North Carolina, scheduled for June 24-26 has been cancelled due to the passage of that state’s so-called bathroom law.
Photos: Errisson Lawrence for Cirque du Soleil ©2015
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.