Thursday evening saw the return of Cirque du Soleil to Glasgow’s SECC. Jim Wilson caught up with creative director, Sean McKeown and Cirque du Soleil’s publicist, MJ Gagnon to discover more about the world-famous spectacle featuring gravity defying acrobats, aerialists, contortionists, rope-jumpers, a balancing duo and of course the acclaimed crazy clowns.
From 16th-19th April, Cirque du Soleil will magically transform the SECC, a space usually occupied by rock-stars, into an intimate 5,000 seated performing space reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil’s traditional big-top setting. This will be the first ever arena performance of Cirque du Soleil, a show that has been performed infront of over ten million spectators in sixty-eight cities and nineteen countries for over thirteen years.
Hosting a massive forty metre square staging area for the first time ever, the capacity of the SECC arena will be reduced by more than half. This will result in a uniquely intimate environment with the entire audience enjoying an extraordinary viewing experience, making them feel like part of the performance itself.
Creative director Sean McKeown was excited about the arena show. “The last time that we were in Glasgow, the performance was on a regular stage and it all felt very flat from the audience’s perspective. It’s great to be able to create the big top effect this year, right inside the arena and bring the stage right out into the audience. The SECC is also a great structure to use for lighting the show and the steel architecture is a great contrast to the performers on stage.” he explained. However, the sheer size of the team involved with the Quidam show means that hotel room bookings are often problematic. “We often have to book out around ninety rooms for the team and that can be quite a challenge!” explains McKeown.
Despite performing in a multitude of venues across the globe, he considers The Point Theatre in Dublin to be one of his favourite venues so far. “The whole arena had just recently been renovated – performing there was a great experience” he says.
The Quidam arena show is one of the most technical productions ever created and staged. The production features a honeycombed stage with traps and flying rigs so performers can materialise from the depths or dramatically dive from the roof on ropes. Quidam will also flip the concept of gravity with an impressive one hundred and twenty foot overhead flying structure called the ‘Telepherique ‘. Measuring over thirty-three metres in length and over twelve metres in height, the structure and its five accompanying rails will take up the entire interior roof surface of the arena.
The creation of the award-winning show has also been a colossal undertaking and planning the show for the arena environment has taken over three years to complete. The Glasgow performance also marks the end of a UK-wide tour featuring over fifty performers from fourteen countries. Julie Cameron, the only Scottish performer in the whole of the Cirque du Soleil cast, was enjoying the chance to be back on Scottish soil. “I’ve been away for so long now. It’s nice to be able to return to Scotland”, she explains. She herself has been involved with Cirque du Soleil for several years. “I’ve always wanted to be part of this, ever since I saw the show for the first time and to finally be taking part in the show is an amazing opportunity.”
However, for the Cirque du Soleil cast and crew, the Glasgow performance is not their last. Following the Glasgow arena shows, the team will fly to Brazil, where they begin the next leg of their tour. It is a hectic schedule but the team always enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation after the performances, explained MJ Gagnon, publicist for Cirque du Soleil. “It’s my first time in Glasgow and I’m planning on visiting a few sites while I’m here. The team get a few days off after each show and I’d like to get a chance to visit Loch Ness. It’s not very often that you get the opportunity to see such wonderful scenery!” she explains.
Photography : Jim Wilson
For more photography of Cirque du Soleil at the SECC check out Jim’s Flickr site.