We talk to performer Sarah Turner and artistic director Michael Smith about Cirque du Soleil!
With so many Cirque shows around the world (and plenty of imitators) how do you keep coming up with fresh material? What's this new show about?
Michael Smith: The starting point for Cirque du Soleil shows, when they go into production, is what have we not done before? What can we do that’s different? What can we do that we’ve done before but we can give a fresh look to, as you would, for example, with a song. With a really well known song, you can arrange it with different musical arrangements and it comes out differently, and that’s what we do with many traditional things in circus arts. That’s why Cirque du Soleil has diversified into Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, Viva Elvis, The Beatles Love - it’s a different way of doing things.
KOOZA is about a show in a box. It’s a Sanskrit word, and it’s the idea that when you open a black box you have no idea what’s inside. It could be anything and it’s full of magic.
How do Cirque work with venues like the Royal Albert Hall? There must be things you would like to do but can't - not a problem in the custom-built mega-theatres in Vegas. But it must be a real thrill to be at Albert Hall.
Michael Smith: It’s absolutely the thrill of a lifetime for all of us. The show that we’re bringing to the Royal Albert Hall is adapted to the hall. It’s an existing show under the big top, but we have to go through an adaptation process. We have to re-light the show, we have to do the sound again. All the artists have to get used to performing on stage where the people are on the same level as them. So those are some of the adjustments that we make, but we definitely adapt the show to this incredible venue.
Since Cirque started out, there have been huge changes to the law about health and safety and to cinema's SFX - how does Cirque manage to keep creating the Wow Factor?
Michael Smith: Obviously health and safety are of prime concern to us and we’re always up to date with the latest health and safety measures in all countries, but specifically in Canada because they’re very stringent. So we apply the Canadian laws to all our shows to protect the artists. It’s very important that they feel that we have their health and safety in hand. That allows them to do the incredible performances they do because they know that we’ll take care of them.
How do you get to be a Cirque performer?
Sarah Turner: Cirque du Soleil scouted at our major competitions, I was previously a gymnast so Cirque du Soleil found me at a world championships when I was 14. I also sent an audition video to them and performed a live audition in London. I joined in November 2010 for a Cirque du Soleil show in Hong Kong called Zaia and moved to Kooza in June 2012.
How would you sum up Cirque in six words for someone who has never seen a show?
Sarah Turner: Original, Spectacular, Thrilling, Unbelievable, The best.
Where next for Cirque?
Michael Smith: The only thing that is sure in life is change and we’re a company that is constantly changing. In 2014, we have different productions coming out: one made for arenas that will go to different arenas around the world, because that allows us to go to a new audience. A new big top show, and of course we have a new resident show opening in Vegas with the Michael Jackson estate about Michael Jackson’s life. There will always be new things. As I said, every project starts with what have we not done before? That has to be the starting point because an audience expects innovation from Cirque du Soleil and we understand that and we have to deliver.