THE circus has rolled into town. And not just any circus – the world’s best known and most talented troupe, Cirque du Soleil.
Newcastle Entertainment Centre was a hot and sweaty hive of activity when the Herald visited yesterday afternoon as the arena was being transformed for tonight’s opening performance of Quidam.
Eighteen truckloads of equipment had been unloaded. The massive set includes the téléphérique, a towering aluminium arch which suspends performers and equipment from rails over a custom-built stage.
Then there’s musical and acrobatic equipment, 2500 costumes, countless wigs, shoes and accessories, washers and dryers ... and the need to transport and accommodate 90 performers and support staff from 23 different countries.
It has taken 80 stagehands more than 12 hours to construct the world of Quidam for Newcastle audiences, who are being treated to 13 shows until January 24.
Cirque du Soleil has visited Newcastle only once before, in 2011, for the Saltimbanco tour.
Since premiering under the Big Top in Montreal in 1996, Quidam has captivated millions of people across five continents. Its magic – and success – is in its storytelling.
Unlike most Cirque du Soleil performances, Quidam is about real people with real emotions. It is the story of Zoe, a young girl who, bored and neglected by her parents, slides into an imaginary world to fill the void in her life. On her magical journey she discovers the wonders of friendship, love and adventure.
Quidam is a world away from Absinthe, the risque, adults-only show Spiegelworld brought to Newcastle last year. Quidam’s international cast of 46 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors convey a heart-warming, family-friendly narrative. The 11 acts are an eclectic mix of live music, astonishing acrobatic skill and eye-catching costumes.
Quidam is, says production manager Mikey Newnum, one of the three “classic” Cirque du Soleil shows alongside Saltimbanco and Alegria.
“These three shows are classics in that they were all groundbreaking and made Cirque du Soleil what it is today. They were the original ‘wow’ factor,” he said.
This is Quidam’s final tour after 15 years of touring the world. Newnum, who has worked with Cirque du Soleil for 12 years, says Newcastle audiences are in for a treat.
“Quidam is different in scale and brightness than Saltimbanco. Quidam is twice as big,” he said.
“It’s the last classic touring show for us, which makes it extra special to be working on it. There’s something about each show you work on that you take with you. You really do live and breathe it.”