Cirque Du Soleil’s Toruk offers a wild and mystic journey inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar that brings a love letter to nature wrapped in aerial acrobatics to Manchester’s Arena. Toruk has taken the best bits of Cameron’s abstract world, following a simple message surrounding hope and strength, allowing audiences to shadow the Na’vi people who inhabit the jungle moon of Pandora. While the 2009 sci-fi film addressed a war over resources between the humans and Nav’vi people, Cirque’s fantasy world heads back in time to construct a surreal tale set before any humans discover Pandora.
Following a trio on a quest to save the Tree of Souls from a Mountain Banshee, Cirque’s pacier production plays out years before the film's premise. Bringing an old world of enchantment, the circus troupe are able to develop a gripping, unique story with a life of its own. 40 video projectors are used to create Pandora, spanning out into the crowd and immersing you in their world. Alongside Cirque’s unnaturally talented performances, the show takes audiences to Olympic heights with spectacular stunts that play out to live music and is narrated by the last of the Anurai Clan.
Fusing puppetry, projections and acrobatics, the show ensemble allows for multitasking artists to bring the theatrics of this passionate community, blending for dance performances, parkour and to operate 16 puppet kites. The original Viperwolves and Direhorses from the Avatar have been recreated, but Cirque has added its own fantastical creatures to the repertoire including Turtapedes and Austrapedes that are controlled by the ever-moving cast.
While the production aims to create its own small, private world at Manchester’s Arena, it is centred by its Home tree that sits, looming over the centre of the stage. Hiding many of the cinematic effects that travel throughout the performance, it is the most significant element of the show and enables the production to surprise its audience with hidden reveals out of its trunk. Replicating the elements of wind, rain and fire with playful lighting and smoke, the productions simplest moments have a wonderous impact, bringing a beautiful sea of fog for its cast to sail on and a stunning rope act that wows the crowd.
The exhausting production keeps the main three cast members on onstage for almost the entire show, with challenging costumes that have its members climbing and flipping over plants with overgrown tails running down their backs. Commanding performances from the contortionists and athletes allow the vigilant group no time off stage to breath with even their rest periods forcing background characters to dance, cartwheel around the room or control the puppet creatures.
While Avatar has inspired Toruk, the show is an original production that keeps the familiar, nonsensical Sim language that will occasionally have you question what the hell is happening. Here, Cirque’s repertoire expands to offer a mature and entirely immersive visual spectacle that is distinct but uniquely captivating show from beginning to end.