Cirque takes massive effort on, off stage

·3 min read

Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo wowed crowds at its Medicine Hat opening Wednesday evening.

Created in 2009, then revamped in 2016, Ovo invites audiences into the colourful, lively and, often, unseen world of bugs. Movement plays a large role in the show, as artists embody bugs of all varieties, from scarabs to spiders to butterflies.

The family-friendly show, which has been performed in more than 90 countries, follows a colony of insects as they attempt to make sense of a mysterious egg delivered to them by a newcomer.

“It is such an inspiring show with high-level acrobatics and high-level artistry at all levels. The music, the costumes, the video projection – everything,” Janie Mallet, Cirque du Soleil senior publicist and tour management team member, told the News. “We want audiences to basically be immersed in our overall ecosystem; to forget about their worries and leave from here being inspired.

“It’s a show that’s fun, uplifting, joyful and warm,” she said. “There’s a story of inclusion and love (and) how we adapt to change and how we adapt to each other. So, I think, that’s also a powerful message.”

While Ovo audiences get to enjoy impeccably refined performances, rarely do they have the opportunity to see what takes place behind the scenes.

Ovo is one of Cirque du Soleil’s touring productions – specifically built for arenas. The production operates on a 10-week-on, two-week-off schedule, and can accommodate anywhere from seven to 10 shows per week.

Approximately 100 people, representing 25 countries, comprise Ovo’s cast and crew, including performers/artists, technicians, managements, control operators, set and prop specialists and costume designers.

While the show’s run-time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, cast and crew put in endless hours preparing for performances.

“We bring everything that we work on,” said Mallet. “The whole stage … stage lighting, video production, rigging, automation, everything we need.”

Mallet explained 20 semi-trucks are needed to move the production from city to city. Once it arrives in a scheduled destination, it takes crews 12 hours on average to reassemble the stage.

“We usually hire a bunch of local stations to come and help out with our technicians, Mallet said.

Despite being labour and time expensive, Mallet said reassembly usually goes smoothly.

“Everything’s like a well oiled machine,” she said. “All the departments know what to do.”

Much like the insect colony at the centre of the show’s story, Ovo’s backstage is constantly buzzing with activity as artists, technicians and crew members work together to ensure the show goes off without a hitch.

Backstage, the show’s mixing boards occupy the space immediately behind the stage, there remains room enough for a large trapeze structure, trampolines and mats, which the artists can practise or warm up on. Perhaps surprisingly, industrial washers and fans line one wall of the space. Mallet explains, the crew washes and dries costumes and select props, doing as many as 36 loads of laundry in one night.

Mallet said cast and crew adapt to each new arena, but always provide a show engaging for the audience.

“We’re constantly working,” she said. ” Constantly, the coaches will decide we need to work on that choreography or we need to work on this piece. We’re going to evolve its content. It’s alive.”

Ovo is running through the weekend, with double showings on both Saturday and Sunday.

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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