Take a sneak peek behind the scenes of TOTEM, the magical new show that has just landed in Brisbane.
A small city has popped up in Hamilton housing acrobats, dancers, trapeze artists and a whole lot of sequins under a striped big top.
Cirque du Soleil are in town to wow Brisbane audiences with their new show TOTEM. A show which traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. The characters evolve on a stage evoking a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations. Inspired by many founding myths, TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the evolutionary progress of species.
The production features a cast of 46 acrobats, actors, musicians and singers from 17 countries and the cast is supported by a dedicated team of 64 technicians and employees from seven countries.
These people, who actually ran away to join the circus, have been hard at work since they bumped into town. Backstage in the Cirque tent you’ll find a bustling metropolis of performers and crew busily going about their day. Trapeze artists are rehearsing their acts, performers pump away on the treadmills in order to keep up their strength before show time and the technical crew can be found lurking in the shadows behind the stage perfecting effects that are sure to make the audience catch their breath.
One backstage department that sees a lot of action is the costume one. It’s a world overflowing with feathers, scales, monkey costumes and a slew of other costume paraphernalia that would make even the most conservative dresser throw their hands up in the air and beg to wear a sparkly headdress.
This is also where you’ll find Head of Wardrobe Amanda Balius, whose job it is to care for, maintain and style the stunning costumes that bring TOTEM to life.
“A lot of research goes into the creative process of the costumes to fit with the director’s vision of the show as well as what the costume designer does to put her own stamp and touches to the costumes,” she said. “There are always wardrobe malfunctions in a live show. Most of them are to do with zippers, but it’s always a very stressful environment trying to get monkeys dressed and costumes changed. Of course we try our best not to have any malfunctions, but you never know.
“The audience members should see the costumes but the costumes shouldn’t draw their focus. The costumes should be such a part of the environment that you don’t question them. We spend a lot of time on repairs because it is an acrobatic type show. So there are always holes in Lycra, zippers breaking and stones falling off. The majority of our day is spent either repairing the costumes or getting them ready for that night.”
An interesting backstage tidbit Balius drops during the backstage tour is that each of the performers are required to do their own make-up.
“When a new artist joins our show they first go to Montreal where they have costume fittings and make-up sessions where they are taught to do their make-up,” she said. “Sometimes they have a background in make-up but a lot of times they don’t. So they are taught from the ground up. We have 45 performers so that’s a lot of make-up artists to have and to hire so this way it gives them ownership of what they look like on stage.”
Since its Montreal World Premiere on April 22, 2010, TOTEM has been performed more than 1,600 times in 28 cities across Australia, Canada, New Zealand, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States
TOTEM opens in Brisbane on April 10, 2015 and will play until 24 May 2015. For more information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/totem.
Click through the gallery to go behind the scenes of Cirque du Soleil.