Review: Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk – The First Flight

Picture this: you walk through a set of doors, leaving a wet, blustery Christchurch evening and then suddenly you find yourself in a mystical jungle.

The outside of Horncastle Arena has been transformed into an Avatar-style world, with vines entangling the doorways and blue lights casting shadows on the walls. I was immediately immersed.

See more:

We entered the arena and found our seats near the 360 degree stage and watched fireflies dancing across the arena  

To my left, the call of an exotic bird. To my right, wind whistling through trees. And… what was that?

The eerie voices told audience members to download an app.

The app gave audience members the chance to interact with different aspects of the show – from guiding fireflies along the stage to flashing your phone’s torch to create a lightning effect in a stormy scene.

Right from the beginning, my attention was pulled in all directions; a group of Na’vi swinging from a wooden structure like it was a trapeze, a couple performing aerial stunts on purple silks, and many others play-fighting in a hypnotically graceful way.

It was so easy to be drawn into the world of Pandora, with camouflaged set lights touching parts of the audience and encapsulating the entire arena.

The story is almost a prequel to James Cameron’s Avatar film, set 3000 years before the plot of the 3D blockbuster.

The set was formed predominantly by lighting and video projectors, smoothly turning the stage from a fiery volcano, to a cascading waterfall, then to a lush forest with colourful blooms in mere seconds.

The storyteller guided the tale from start to finish – and although the rest of the Na’vi characters spoke in their own primitive Pandorian language, their movements and interactions told an enthralling story.

The acrobatic skills of the performers were unbelievable – their movements were so graceful, so impressive, so sure.

One of the most breathtaking stunts was atop a spinning see-saw contraption, styled as a giant backbone skeleton. Several performers weighted each part of the spine, each twisting their bodies into the strangest of positions, doing backflips – all whilst suspended above the ground.

Along with the Na’vi performers were a selection of puppets and kites, each bringing to life a different creature – from wolf-like animals with glowing green eyes, to birds fluttering in the sky, and to the great, mighty Toruk.

The costuming was clearly carefully designed, made with natural-looking materials like leaves, feathers, leathers, and decorated with intricate beading.

Each element was so detailed, so well thought out, making you feel as though you were not just watching a show, but actually part of that world.

All in all, there is just one way to describe Toruk – The First Flight; Lu Lor (Na’vi for ‘it is beautiful’).

Cirque Du Soleil’s Toruk – The First Flight runs at Horncastle Arena from September 1 to September 10, and tickets are available from Ticketek.


  1. The sets and costumes were amazing. I was under whelm by the lack of gymnastics performed.
    Lots of running around. I gave it the benefit of not having gone to their performances before. But having spoken to other people now their felt the some.
    Over all an excellent story but just lack somethingto make it that little bit special. Shine.