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Cirque du Soleil going all out to wow Cape Town

A scene from Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Saltimbanco’A scene from Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Saltimbanco’

10 lucky readers can win double tickets to ‘Saltimbanco’. To win, you have to be a subscriber of The Next 48hOURS. Send your name and “Cirque du Soleil” in the subject line in an e-mail to: before 12pm on Friday Monday March 21. If you are NOT a subscriber, send an email to, then you may enter...
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PETER TROMP spoke to CARMEN RUEST, a director and founding member at Cirque du Soleil about ‘Saltimbanco’, the spectacular that will show at the Grand Arena at GrandWest from Wednesday March 23 until Sunday April 3, the company’s genesis, keeping things fresh after 26 years and what exactly ‘Saltimbanco’ means.

For those not in the know, can you please explain exactly what Cirque du Soleil is?
It is an intentionally know production company that produces new circus type entertainment shows. We started in 1984, so the company is 26 years old. We have created since we started a new type of staging and circus performance that combines theatre with original music and circus elements.
We have an international cast in every show; it is important that we have that multi-disciplinary element with a diverse range of performers. It is a creativity-driven company so we always strive to take risks in every show. As we speak, there are 19 shows running concurrently in the world, and every show has its own identity. The company itself consists of 5000 employees, including 1500 artists on stage.

What can people expect from the show at the Grand Arena?
The show we are bringing is our oldest show on tour. It was our fifth creation, created in 1992, under the big top. It has toured almost everywhere, except Africa. The name of the show is ‘Saltimbanco’, an Italian word that means to jump together in a bunch. It is a reference to Italian street performers from the past. In the show, ‘Saltimbanco’ is an imaginary city where anything can happen. It is full of vibrant colours and there is a lot of joy in it.
Each one of the 50 performers has unique characters and their personas really come through. It is very exciting to bring it here, finally. Everyone is so thrilled. The response has been so good that we added dates for Cape Town, so it is now two weeks.

What does directing the show entail exactly?
I coordinate the work of all the designers on the show. The designers are freelance, so they don’t have the background information necessarily.

You’ve been involved with Cirque du Soleil since its inception. How has the company changed since the start?
It started with 73 people. In 1984, there was a lot of celebration in Canada and Quebec for the 450th celebration of the country, so there were a lot of funds available for companies. It was only supposed to be a one year thing, but it just carried on from there as interest took off, especially from other countries. The founder was 24 when we started, and we’ve been determined to stay young and relevant all of this time.

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