NEXT week sees a moment that Helen Day has been waiting for for four years.

For that is when Cirque du Soleil brings the spectacular show, Toruk - the First Flight to Manchester Arena.

Helen, from Brighton, is one of a team of six puppeteers in the show which is visiting the UK for the first time.

Cirque du Soleil has become renowned for it daring productions featuring some of the world’s leading acrobats and circus performers.

Toruk, which visits the imaginary world created by Oscar-winning film-maker James Cameron in Avatar, continues that tradition with some spell-binding physical set pieces, but is also the first Cirque show to bring puppetry to the fore.

“There are other Cirque shows which have puppets and puppetry,” said Helen, “but none of them feature puppetry as strongly as ours does for sure.

“They are as important to the show as the main characters and are an integral part of the storyline.”

The puppets themselves are spectacular

“They are very big,” said Helen. “Because we play arenas we can’t have anything small because no one would see them.

“Some of them are designed for one puppeteer. For instance we have six viperwolves which is a creature which anyone who has seen Avatar will know and we each operate one of them. Then you have the star of the show, the Toruk, which is a giant puppet which takes all of us to operate.

“There are others which vary along the way. We are all doing lots of different things.”

With its international headquarters in Montreal and different shows playing all over the world, Cirque du Soleil is a truly global organisation.

For Toruk, performers from 25 different nations are part of the show.

“The old sense of circus as a touring family still exists in Cirque du Soleil,” said Helen. “If you wander backstage you’ll hear multiple languages and accents and yet there is a huge sense of camaraderie and friendship. Touring as much as we do, you come to rely on each other for everything.”

Helen has been involved with Toruk since its inception four years ago, having previously worked as a puppeteer, aerialist and stunt performer.

“It’s been wonderful to be on board with this show from the beginning,” she said. “I’m the only one of the six original puppeteers to still be on the show. I have been part of not only making this show but also guiding the way the puppets have developed over the years.”

As if being such an integral part of the show as a puppeteer wasn’t enough, eagle-eyed audience members may also spot her in some of the show’s opening scenes.

“Oh no, puppetry’s not enough for me,” she laughed. “I’d already performed aerial rope before I came into the show and I do perform on rope act in act one prior to transforming into a puppeteer.”

Toruk is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film Avatar and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

It’s visually stunning but also has a message which is particularly relevant today.

“The whole thing is very beautiful,” said Helen, “and I think it can be watched by everyone from five year old to their grandma and everyone in between.

“There is a very strong narrative but one which is relatively easy to understand and it does appeal to different generations.

“In fact kids often relate to the message more than older generations do - it’s about that drive toward unity and working together for the planet which is so relevant right now.”

After four years on the show, Helen has never been fitter.

“As we perform in arenas and use the whole arena floor, we are racing around covering a huge amount of ground in every show,” she said. “Also some of the puppets can be quite heavy. Everyone is in pretty good shape when they join the show but after a few weeks you can see them looking much beefier and healthier.”

Working with world class performers on a daily basis can, admits Helen, leave you to take their skills for granted.

“You do become a little used to looking around and seeing people standing on their hands and dangling off this, that and the other and at times you have to remind yourself how amazing that is,” she said.

As Toruk tours the UK for the first time, Helen is preparing to show her family and friends how she has been spending her time over the last four years.

“It’s OK telling them what you do but it’s not until they see the show that people fully appreciate it,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to bringing the show ‘home’ for so long. I really can’t wait.”

Toruk - the First Flight, Manchester Arena, Thursday, June 20 to Sunday, June 23. Details from