Cirque du Soleil: Toruk – The First Flight
Horncastle Arena, Christchurch, NZ
September 1st, 2017
4/5 stars


Magical. Jaw-dropping. Beauty redefined.

As the largest theatrical producer in the world, Canadian entertainment company Cirque du Soleil continues to jump in leaps and bounds since its foundation 33 years ago.

In a scintillating new light, and inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar, Toruk – The First Flight transports its audience to the world of Pandora in a visually stunning live setting, stunning New Zealand crowds hellbent on daring adventures and N’avi creations.

According to the Oxford dictionary, the circus is defined as a travelling company of acrobats, clowns, and entertainers who take part in performances across a series of different places.

Yet, Cirque du Soleil does so much more.

From the Beatles, to Crystal and Michael Jackson, these are experiences traced as story-telling odysseys through a new world of imagination, discovery, and possibility. Described by promoters as a riveting fusion of cutting-edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil carries a very high billing indeed.

Toruk – The First Flight applies a unique signature style to James Cameron’s imaginary world, fostering the bond between two artistic visions that vividly capture the imagination.

Taking place thousands of years before the events of the film, Toruk follows two Na’vi on a quest to find the mighty flying predator after a natural disaster threatens the sacred Tree of Souls.

Explosive through a hint of magical realism, this performance grabs you from the off. Opening with drums and acrobats dangling fearlessly on ropes, the audience is forced to consider the impossible.

The journey follows a fiery destruction of earth, wind and fire – audio scores underpinning what is often a remarkable demonstration of human talent.

And yet, as the flawlessly painted actors scaled ropes and wooden constructs, flying through the air on totem poles, one had to consider an inkling of disappointment with the relationship between show and circus.

That’s not to say the cinematography wasn’t excellent and incredibly realistic, or that the performance wasn’t a mix of dance, drama and artistic brilliance. It just, well, didn’t really feel like Cirque du Soleil.

Interspersed with an underlying storyline, acrobats crossed the stage with leaps and bounds – but when it came to acts of terrifying proportion, there seemed to be something lacking.

The WOW factor.

A standout were the fight scenes; weapons at the ready and an unknown language adding to the mystery. However, while a revolving set and stunning ground surface played the role of light reflection and basis of location, I found myself desperately wanting to turn, wide-eyed, and in awe at what was before me.

Yet it just didn’t happen.

Birds, boomerangs and kites were all brought out to play – a multitude of elements playing a role in the multimedia extravaganza. The narrator moved effortlessly throughout the performance, standing on erected platforms within the arena.

And there still, deep down, remained a resounding, “But wait, there’s more…?”

A tremendous display of technique, culture and jaw-dropping talent; this was be one to remember for the ages, albeit not for its circus aspect, but simply for its intricate ability to entertain.

Good, but not great. Cirque du New Zealand: the world we never knew.


Catch Toruk – The First Flight at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch until September 7th. You can get your tickets here!


AARON DAHMEN is a pioneer and host of TADS. Softish skin, over gesticulated and a pair of unorthodoxly wide dimples. Forms 1/2 of @BYWNewZealand. Check out some more of his work for TEARAWAY:

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