Performed by Cirque du Soleil. Directed by Diane Paulus. The Port Lands, to Nov. 4.
Back in 2010, Julie Taymor gave us a gender-bending film of Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Helen Mirren playing a female version of the wizard Prospero. Now another celebrated American director, Diane Paulus, has done Taymor one better under the guise of her first Cirque du Soleil show. The amazing Amaluna, currently being performed beneath the Cirque big top on Toronto’s Port Lands, is a Tempest-inspired, rock-propelled spectacle with its own “Prospera” (Julie Andrea McInnes), a formidable sorceress who oversees a whole island of unicycling nymphs, acrobatic Amazons, and high-flying Valkyries.
Into this gymnastic gynocracy tumbles an all-male crew of castaways, including a ripped young Romeo (Edouard Doyle), who immediately catches the eye of Miranda (Iuliia Mykhailova), Prospera’s supple teenage daughter. Before you know it, they’re engaged in a sweetly playful aquatic courtship, contorting in and around a giant, transparent cauldron of water on Scott Pask’s tropical set. Later, Miranda’s jealous reptilian pet, Cali (Viktor Kee), having briefly thwarted Romeo, perches triumphantly on the cauldron’s rim to show off his juggling skills.
In Paulus’s concept, female symbols abound, from cellos to the moon. And women rule the stage, from the hard-driving all-girl rock band to the (rather tiresome) clown duo of Nathalie Claude and Pepa Plana, whose main skit is a fertility spoof. Most impressive is the White Goddess, played by Lara Jacobs, whose truly breathtaking routine involves slowly building a huge skeletal mobile from a pile of palm-leaf ribs, using her feet. It might well be a metaphor for Paulus’s own graceful direction—or perhaps the skillful balancing act of your average working parent.