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30 years under the big top: what’s next for Cirque du Soleil?

The little French Canadian circus company that could (and did) become the largest theatrical producer in the world celebrates its 30th birthday this week. Since its launch in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has staged 35 large-scale shows around the world, and has had an undeniable impact upon the world of circus. Cirque du Soleil brought a level of sophistication and production values that the world had never seen before in circus, and went on to take over the entertainment on the Las Vegas strip and the international market for touring circus acts. The company now has almost 4000 employees, with 1300 performing artists.

The celebrations are in full swing, and Cirque du Soleil is returning to Australia later this year with a Grand Chapiteau tour of their 2010 show Totem. The 30th birthday comes off the back of a tough 2013 for the company, which saw the death of one performer in a tragic accident, 400 staff members laid off, and shows closing due to poor attendance.

But if Cirque du Soleil ever runs out of ideas (how could they ever?!), we’ve compiled a few pitches for new shows that should freshen things up.


They’ve tackled the world of jungle animals in Varekai and even the world of insects in OVO. But what about bacteria? Microbialité would focus on an amoeba with an existential crisis, holding an umbrella. Daily Review already has the perfect set design in mind: a giant petri dish.


Cirque had the hottest show in Vegas when it opened O in 1998, complete with a 1.5 million gallon pool of water. While the underwater world was new territory for the circus, they still haven’t taken on the final frontier. Circus in water? Inspired! Circus in space? Genius!

Cirque has long been performing gravity-defying tricks, but how would they go in a zero-gravity environment? Sarah Brightman is preparing to be the first singer to perform in space (if she can beat Lady Gaga), but her trip has come with a hefty $54 million price tag and Cirque is just coming out of tough financial times. Perhaps they can hitch a ride on her ship and be the first circus act to perform in space?


To grab a new audience, Cirque opened their adults-only cabaret-circus fusion Zumanity in 2003. But if they really want to draw big crowds, they should quit beating around the bush and give audiences what they really want to see: athletic sexual acts. Pornographique would draw inspiration from Last Tango in Paris and Eyes Wide Shut, and be performed in a repurposed brothel. The design would be full of red ruched curtains and gold leaf surfaces, meaning Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin would have to come on board as creatives. Australian cabaret star Paul Capsis could play the Emcee, providing the perfect does of Eastern European androgynous angst.


Cirque loves a musical icon. They’ve created shows around the music of The Beatles, Elvis Presley and now two tributes to Michael Jackson. They’ve even worked with Celine Dion. But Cirque should be using their resources to tap into the youth of today. We’re suggesting a flexible approach; a production able to adapt and change, week-to-week to celebrate whoever is hot property at that point in time. They can open with a tribute to Rihanna and Ke$ha called Please Don’t Stop the Circu$.


If tough times continue for the company, it can always recycle… erm, I mean, “repurpose” some of its original productions and go back to its roots, with remounts of Saltimbanco and Alegria. We all remember our first Cirque du Soleil show fondly, when we were captured by production values we’d never seen before in a tent and the charm of those whacky French Canadians. Why not just give us the original and best all over again? If new ideas are failing Cirque, they can always bank on nostalgia, right?


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