The circus returns with Totem

Cirque du Soleil's latest acrobatic show is impressive, but lacks the awe of their previous shows.

Justin Hui

Published: 30 October 2015, 5:17 PM

On Wednesday night, Youth.SG was invited to the star-studded premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s latest theatrical extravaganza in Singapore.

Held under the big blue and yellow tent opposite Marina Bay Sands, Totem showcased several sensational acrobatic acts inspired by the evolution of humankind.

Before the show began, Totem‘s clown characters mingled with the audience, warming them up with their humorous antics. At one point, they even covered the first row of audience members in a layer of popcorn.

As the lights dimmed, the stage cover was removed to unveil an elaborate scaffolding structure inhabited by a team of acrobats dressed as amphibians. These “frogmen” pulled off an impressive display of synchronised swinging on the high bars with skills that could rival an Olympic athlete.


The flying frogmen effortlessly leapt from one bar to another.


Another act that impressed the crowds in the first half was the girls on unicycles using their feet to throw bowls onto their heads. Their coordination was impeccable. They were simultaneously flipping bowls to each other’s head, all while balancing on a unicycle.


I’m ashamed I can’t even ride a bike properly.


The best performances, however, were saved for the second half, which opened with a couple performing death-defying stunts on a fixed trapeze.


She is hanging by her neck… her neck.


This act was followed by another couple wearing roller skates who pulled off a series of high-speed spinning stunts on a tiny round platform, before the final act of the Russian Bars.

These four-inch-thick planks were used as trampolines to toss performers high into the air, and it was an incredible sight to see them land on such a narrow strip.


The native American inspired act was backed by live music and vocalist (rear left).


Aside from the gymnastic feats, Totem offered a holistic theatrical experience. A live band provided the backing music for the entire show. The flamboyant costumes, designed by Kym Barrett, made use of reflective and luminous materials to add an additional layer of depth to the performances.

The dynamic images projected on stage reacted to the movements of the performers, making it look like the “frogmen” were really splashing about in a pool of water. The overall result was a visual spectacle that garnered a standing ovation after the finale.


Colourful costumes and special projection effects brought the show to life.


However, as good as the show was in terms of quality, there were some performances that I was not able to appreciate so well, or at best, found a bit underwhelming.


I did not really get this version of the chicken dance.
Image credits: Cirque du Soleil 2014


It has been 10 years since Cirque du Soleil last set foot in Singapore, and times have changed since them. Thanks to YouTube, our exposure to incredible feats of human strength and agility has increased tenfold.

A consequence of this “desensitisation” is that we are probably a lot harder to entertain, much less impress.

While there were some truly impressive moments during Totem, my palate for awesomeness was left a bit wanting at the end of the show.

Totem is showing under the big top next to Marina Bay Sands from 28 Oct to 6 Dec. Get your tickets here.

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