050110 Cirque du Soleil: Totem, Montreal, QC

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Tailing a laid-back rock and roll twofer featuring Pater Gabriel backed up by an orchestra in the cavernous Bell Centre followed by a soft-seat evening at the Salle Wilfred-Pelletier featuring the subtle glory of Mark Knopfler, on May 1st, 2010 the final day of this little three-round bout of entertainment in Montreal was hosted by a local acrobatics troupe with the curious moniker Cirque du Soleil.

Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

Their wonderful Suessian tent was set up on the waterfront in Old Montreal right next to the Science Museum, which I believe was exhibiting that Bodyworks show at the time.  You know, the one that poses plasticized human carcasses in the name of art?  M’lady and I almost checked it out but the $50+ admission charge made us a little too squeamish.  Sheesh, it’s not like they’re paying the dead people or anything.  

This might have been the first time I saw a Cirque show here in Montreal where they always debut, but that doesn’t matter.  Once you step into one of their magical circus tents you could be anywhere, or more precisely, nowhere.  Nowhere but where your imagination lands after being lured from one impossible realm to another through a string of unbelievable feats performed by unimaginable characters.  

This show was called Totem and it proposed to bring the audience from the primordial, lizard-filled waterworld that first gave birth to life on our planet right up to the modern age of space travel and otherworldly exploration.  Or something like that.  There was some cool juggling, for instance.

The show was inspired by Cirque founder and multi-zillionaire Guy Laliberte (though I prefer my own English translation “Guy Freedom”, possibly the most oddly appropriate name ever given to a clown who changed the face of entertainment around the planet), who had recently returned from a pricey tourist jaunt into space and had brought back with him several vacation photos that were included in the show.  The watery theme of Totem was also an obvious reflection of Guy Freedom’s One Drop organization, which strives to provide access to safe water and sanitation to people who need it (which is all of us, of course).

And never was such an ecological presentation and plea for environmental awareness so enticingly engaging!  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for Cirque shows (though they don’t get any sort of blanket immunity from my hearty criticism – I’ve seen a couple of clunkers) and Totem is one of the better ones.  It was funny, it was heavy, it was mind-bending and visually stunning; in short it was the usual Cirque du Soleil sensual assault that makes first timers swoon and keeps repeat offenders coming back time and time again.  

Sadly, you can only experience Cirque’s magic for the first time once, but somehow they still manage to keep it drop-dead amazing even for an old grizzler like myself.  

Thank-you Guy Freedom!

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