The Illusionists 2.0 in Auckland

The Illusionists 2.0

Usually when a show returns to a city like Auckland so soon after its original run there is little redeeming on offer, but The Illusionists 2.0 (the first edition of which originally charmed Auckland in 2013) mixes something old with something new. With added audience interaction and even a third dimension, the familiar set up continues – a team of some of the world’s greatest magicians together for what could be described as the world’s biggest magic variety show.

On entry you’re given a pair of 3D glasses and an envelope which reads DO NOT OPEN. These will both come in handy later in the show, and while I can say that the contents of the envelope turn out to be very satisfying I did find the 3D effect a bit of a gimmick. It’s used far too sparingly through the show and doesn’t really add much to the experience.

Speaking of the experience, this one is top quality. I recently wrote about how Cirque du Soleil can still make modern audiences gasp from excitement and shock, and The Illusionists does the same thing. I lost count of the number of times the couple in front of me were huddled together, watching the action on stage through their fingers. Or the woman behind me loudly asking anyone who would listen “how did they do that?!” It’s impressive stuff.

There’s a little here for everyone; The Trickster returns, causing mischief and playing with the audience (don’t sit in the front if you don’t want to be part of the show). The Warrior’s weaponry and martial arts skill made for some terrifying close calls with performers and audience members alike. The Deceptionist captures the essence of big, flashy, Vegas-style stunt magic and brings it roaring to life in The Civic auditorium. The beauty of this format is that none of the styles of magic become too repetitive, too stale. Before you can figure out how they’re pulling off the tricks in front of you a new performer is on stage with an all new mind-blowing stunt. This is a magic show for the short attention spans of the News Feed-refreshing social media generation.

The Illusionists 2.0 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, because it doesn’t have to. The premise of the original show was so good that with a refreshed lineup it was more than ready to head on the road again. Complete with a new lineup, new set, new tricks and new surprises this show will more than deliver its share of glitz, music, drama, stunts and, of course, magic.

The Illusionists 2.0
Until September 13
The Civic, Auckland
Tickets from Ticketmaster

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The Cirque spell continues

totem

We’re pretty lucky to live in a city that increasingly lives up to its tagline. Sometimes it’s hard not to appreciate that the Show Never Stops. This year Cirque du Soleil’s Totem production stops off in Auckland, making it the seventh Cirque show to wow crowds here.

If you’re not familiar with Cirque du Soleil… where the hell have you been? 30 years ago, at a time when circuses were dying off and audiences were increasingly turning off to the horrible abuses of animal performances some clever chaps from Canada decided to create a circus company dedicated to age old circus arts combined with all the best dance, music, performance and visuals from around the world and throughout history. It could’ve gone very wrong but the company had gone on to become a multi-million dollar business and (almost) perfect track record of dazzling shows.

In Totem, Cirque has created a show exploring the origins of humanity and evolution from sea-dwelling creature to cellphone-toting, sunbathing intelligent people. Pretty ambitious stuff for a circus, really. The show takes place beneath the Grand Chapiteau (Cirque’s fancy shmancy name for a tent), which adds an extra layer of authenticity. There’s something a circus tent brings to a performance that you can’t get from an arena show (looking at you, Saltimbanco and Michael Jackson: Immortal).

The stage is designed to resemble a turtle, one of the oldest creatures on earth and a symbol of life in the seas and on land. The set is shockingly state-of-the-art for what you’d expect to find in a big tent in Ellerslie, morphing and twisting and bending as the story demands.3D projection turns the stage floor into everything from an erupting volcano to a calm bay, all while reacting to the casts movements in real time. You can tell there is money here.

The show starts with either a man-shaped disco ball, or a man dipped in glitter descending from above and ignite the “spark of life” (honestly, Cirque are the masters and colourfully explaining how their acts fit together). Once Mr Sparkles gets the show started the outer layer of the turtle shell is suddenly whisked away to show a skeleton set which houses some amazing acrobatics and trampolining.

What follows can only be described as awesome. You want buff Johnny Bravo-like men swinging from ropes above you? Check. Want some Native American woman hanging from her neck to a man spinning on roller skates spinning in circles so fast it’s a blur? Check. After some TRON-esque South American men jumping high into the air on tiny poles balanced on their castmates’ shoulders? Check. People on three metre unicycles flicking metal bowls on to each other’s heads choreographed to music? Check.

I could go on but a Cirque du Soleil production is really one of those things that can’t adequately be described by words. It’s a see it for yourself kind of deal. These days it sometimes it feels like we’ve seen everything before, so it’s reassuring to know that there are still things in this world that can surprise and shock people. Hearing thousands of people gasp at once is something that doesn’t happen enough anymore.

Totem continues the Cirque du Soleil tradition of amazing, see-it-to-believe-it, performances. See it, Auckland, see it. And if you miss it, there should be another one just around the corner.

PS: It’s gotta be good, even dear old John key took time out from the election to head along.

JK TOTEM

Auckland Cirque du Soleil productions:

Alegria (2001)
Quidam (2005)
– Varekai (2007)
Dralion (2009)
Saltimbanco, arena version (2011)
Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour (2013)
Totem (2014)