Zola’u niprrte! (Mabuhay in Na’vi dialect.)
The moment I received an exclusive invite to the Asian Premier of Cirque Du Soleil’s Toruk, The First Flight via my email, I did not give it much attention. Sure it is the world-renowned acrobatic group CDS; sure it is based on the blockbuster film Avatar written and directed by James Cameron which is a personal favorite; sure it is an experience of a lifetime. However, I am not used to this level of invite that I never thought I deserve one. The saying “If it’s too good to be true, then it must be too good to be true!” resounds in my mind.
The celestial powers must be aligned towards handling me this good fortune that even during the prelude Na’vi Face Make-up Demonstration held a day before the opening, I was also shooed in. That or the fact that I know someone in the production? Hmmmm….
Here are some photos of what transpired during the Na’vi Face Make-up Demonstration held somewhere at the backstage of Mall of Asia Arena. To my surprise, one of the faces being made up to look like a turquoise-skinned clansmen of the moon Pandora was John Arcilla! He of the General Luna fame for the millennials and a multi-awarded theater and film actor for the more seasoned denizens like me (read: x-gen aunts and uncles).
I was also fortunate enough to do an impromptu interview with Janie Mallet, Publicist for Cirque Du Soleil. Through her, I learned that the Philippines got special preference in being the first in Asia to run the show from June 23 to July 2 at the Mall of Asia Arena. The logistics for these kind of shows is astounding bringing in several semis in order to keep the production values and aesthetics CDS levels. Forgive my sore throat hoarsed speaking voice throwing the questions. But let us hear it from Janie herself.
The attendees of the premier night were as spectacular as the show itself. I saw gorgeous models and celebrities among the elegant crowd that gathered outside the gates as they queue for the entrance. This must be the reason for the strict smart casual to formal dress code imposed for the event. To make my conundrum worse, I realized I have been exclusively a runner and running event only goer for the past several years that I do not even own a single pair of leather shoes! My “ka-cheapan” trickles down to my wardrobe consisting mostly of rugged and sports apparels!
What Cheapanggang Diva to do? Well, in a rush, I headed to Landmark to find some cheap shoes and long-sleeve polo shirt. The shoes were cheap at P799 but the shirt was not for P1049 bought at 20% off. I realized the disparity between women’s and men’s clothing prizes. You can buy chic ladies’ clothes for less than half the men’s clothing prices! At least I was not OP during the premier and be uncomfortably conscious of my shabbiness. But does external wrapping really matter? Anyway, back to the program.
There are special areas scattered around the ground floor and the second floor for selfie or groupie. The most prominent entrance backdrop in the first floor though served as the Na’vi appearance portal – some sort of intergalactic dimensional area bridging Pandora and Earth where Na’vis and Earthlings can take picture together. So make good use of this once in a lifetime opportunity like I and Banana Runner Bards did!
As Pandora unfolds before my very eyes, I was immediately transported to a realm made for imagination where everything is divinely surreal – even the body of the Na’vis (or the acrobats who portray them actually)! Well, great bone structure, good looks, and years of dance and acrobatic training are behind that. Here is what I meant.
The beauty of the entire production is on how it manages to transform the bleak looking mounds (I later learned as inflatable rubber and steel) they assembled in the center of the MOA Arena into an enchanting lush forest / paradise of the Pandoran biosphere. This habitable moon of the gaseous giant Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri galaxy is the setting of the Avatar story from which this Cirque Du Soleil production – Toruk, The Last Flight – is based. Laser, lights, and projector technology combined to make the 3D effect of water, plants, boulders, waterfalls, fire, etc. Here are more photos of the spell-bounding scenery that I witnessed during the entirety of the show.
The central characters of the story involve the Storyteller belonging to the Anurai clan and the last of its kind. He has witnessed centuries of Na’vi existence including the Great Sorrow when the Omaticaya Hometree (Tree of Souls) was destroyed. The three young protagonists are Ralu and Entu, budding leaders and warriors of the Omaticaya Clan, and Tsyal, the only daughter of the village chief of the Tawkami Clan and an expert chemist. These three teenage Na’vis will venture to the different Pandora locales of the five clans in order to save the Tree of Souls.
Aside from the lavish scenery and colorful Na’vi characters, the Pandorian animals were centerpieces to the entire story giving the audience glimpse of terror and Pandorian monstrosity. These creatures – the Austraped, Turtapede, Direhorse, and Viperwolf – were put to life using various techniques of puppetry. Even the humongous Toruk is itself one big string puppet! Ingenious!
To fully integrate into the Pandorian experience, I advise those who plan to watch the show to download the Toruk app beforehand. You will find some trinkets of information on how the story was developed and put to life, explore Pandora, as well as the significance of various artifacts used in the story. You will use this same app to get involved with the show more than being mere spectators like providing flashing lights and colored screens as added effects to the story. These will make your viewing experience a more interactive experience. However, if you do not want any distractions to your spellbound state, you might as well do away with your phone and remain transfixed to the stage which is, for me, more immersive.
Dowload the app at this link – https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk/mobile-app
Here are some 1 minute clips I captured of the performance and posted on my IG account. But I discourage you from doing the same and disrupting your visual and acrobatic ecstasy just to be cool in social media! A minute or two out of the two hours show running time is fine though.
Toruk, The Last Flight will be flying at the MOA Arena until July 2. For tickets, go to https://smtickets.com/events/search/toruk
Irayo’! Well that’s “thank you” for you.