Cirque du Soleil set itself an ambitious target when it decided to attempt a show based on James Cameron’s science fiction epic Avatar. But Toruk – The First Flight took off in so many ways.
The show tells the story of the first blue skinned na’vi of the planet Pandora to ride a killer Toruk bird, an event probably as momentous as the invention of the wheel in our own history.
Before the climactic flight Toruk’s rider, and his friends, must go on a quest as they collect artefacts from five tribes living in five quite different environments on the almost untamed planet.
One of the many highlights of the performance is the evolving of the laser projected sets as they change from one environment to the other. During one transition cliffs appear, water cascades down them and pool on the ground where rocky outcrops remain dry as the characters on the quest traverse the landscape. It was close to photo real, and amazing to behold.
Avatar – The First Flight is the classic hero’s journey identified by mythologist Joseph Campbell, more comparable to the 1978 Doctor Who story The Key to Time than The Lord of the Rings or the original Star Wars trilogy.
But the hero’s journey in Toruk – The First Flight will change the world as much as Luke Skywalker’s or Frodo Baggins’s quest to topple the Empire and defeat Sauron. All that said, The First Flight is a simple story told through a little narration in English as every word uttered on stage by the performers is in the Na’vi tongue.
Because this is also a Cirque du Soleil show the journey is infused with death defying feats including breath taking aerial rope work, well choreographed native dance and a plethora of other indescribable na’vi antics.
The story is at the forefront at times, particularly at the beginning of the show during the set up, but most of the time it is about the physical feats of the performers.
But they are mostly worked into the story in such a way that they feel natural to the na’vi.
Complaints of the show being too much about Avatar are, frankly, bonkers. This is an Avatar prequel, true and blue, which happens to be put on by Cirque du Soleil. And James Cameron is, evidently, proud.