Brisbane Welcomes TOTEM Cirque du Soleil | Fashion Weekly

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Three million audience members worldwide have been mesmerized by the acts since the Montreal World Premier in April 2010 and finally, it's Brisbane's turn to witness the extravagance.

TOTEM's Writer and Director Robert Lepage said, "TOTEM explores the birth and evolution of the world, the relentless curiosity of human beings and their constant desire to excel."

The visual environment of TOTEM is an organic world, a marsh lined with reeds near an island (the stage), on which images are projected. Set Designer Carl Fillion gave it curves and non-linear forms to reflect the natural world.

Brisbane Welcomes TOTEM Cirque du Soleil | Fashion Weekly

"The large oval framework on stage represents the skeletal substructure of a huge turtle shell that serves both as a decorative set element and as acrobatic equipment," said TOTEM's Tour Publicist Francis Jalbert.

The production features a cast of 46 acrobats, actors, musicians and singers from 17 countries. And from a technical standpoint, TOTEM is considered Cirque du Soleil's first hybrid production as it can be performed in both indoor amphitheaters and under the blue-and-yellow big top all without requiring significant changes to the set and equipment.

The 750 extraordinary costumes in Totem have been applauded globally and were designed by Brisbane-born Kym Barrett.

TOTEM's Tour Publicist Francis Jalbert said, "There is a Brisbane connection to TOTEM, the costume designer, Kym Barrett is originally from [here]. Now she works in L.A. and works on a lot of Hollywood productions."

Kym Barrett's initial approach to the TOTEM costume designs was rooted in documentary-based reality. This process entailed research into real animals, plants and birds as well as traditional cultural and tribal designs to source her fanciful, inventive concoctions.

Brisbane Welcomes TOTEM Cirque du Soleil | Fashion Weekly

"All the of the costumes are not made on tour, they are made at the head office in Montreal," said TOTEM's Tour Publicist Francis Jalbert. "We have 3D replicas of the artist's head in Montreal and we create the masks on the replicas so that we know when we are on tour it won't be falling off."

To recreate such a broad range of textures, colours and markings found in nature, Kym concentrated on the treatment of fabrics rather than on the fabrics themselves: advanced printing techniques, fluorescent pigments, mirror fragments and crystals allowed her to "paint" on canvases as varied as Lycra and leather, with results that constantly interact with and adapt to the show's ever-changing lighting.

"You can create something beautiful but it has to fit with what they are doing," he said.
The Crystal Man—a recurring character—represents the life force. His dazzling costume (literally) is entirely covered of small mirrors and crystals. The glittering mobile mosaic is made up of about 4,500 reflective components on a stretch velvet leotard.

"The Crystal Man character ... looks like a star constellation. And he represents The Big Bang or the spark of light that has brought life on earth. It's a very beautiful piece," said Jalbert.

Brisbane Welcomes TOTEM Cirque du Soleil | Fashion Weekly

The New Zealand Herald wrote, "TOTEM strikes the perfect balance with a dazzling display of cutting edge technology blending into the timeless mystique of the circus...a lavish serving of the wow factor."

While The San Francisco Chronicle stated, "TOTEM is whimsically seductive and the most enjoyable show to come along from Cirque du Soleil in quite a while."

It's obvious that Cirque du Soleil continuously pushes the boundaries to create such thrilling performances. But one has to wonder if the current modern day society we live in will ever cause this extravagance to fizzle out?

TOTEM's Writer and Director Rober Lepage said, "What is it about the circus that so captivates us? It's a discipline in which the performers must always go beyond. We witness the transfiguration of the human being. In the short time they are in the air, or performing acrobatic feats, circus artists become more than men and women – they are demigods, and we are transported into a world of mythology."

The Details

What: TOTEM by Cirque du Soleil
When: Opens April 10 to May 24, 2015
Location: Under the Big Top at Northshore Hamilton, Macarthur Avenue, off Remora Road