The Honest Truth: Touring with the legendary Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s Julia Tazie, Jan Duther and Nathan Rivera-Drydak perform in the “Smartie Tube” walkway in Glasgow (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Cirque du Soleil’s Julia Tazie, Jan Duther and Nathan Rivera-Drydak perform in the “Smartie Tube” walkway in Glasgow (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

ONE of the biggest touring shows in the world, Cirque du Soleil has been wowing audiences for more than 30 years.

Scottish production member Rory Boyd told Murray Scougall the Honest Truth about life with the legendary show, which is currently performing in Glasgow.

What is your background?

I’m from a town near Aviemore, called Nethy Bridge. Since I was young I’ve always had a passion for shows. I also used to travel a lot as a child to some unusual places, which is why this job was a perfect fit!

How did you come to work with Cirque du Soleil?

I studied Production Technology & Management at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. In my final year I was offered a six-week internship with another Cirque show in Russia, called Varekai. From there, I was offered a temporary contact and finally a full-time job as an automation technician.

Rory with the cast members

What does an automation technician do?

I control and look after all the mechanical equipment in the show. So that could be turntables, lifts, or 20ft-tall mechanical flowers. I set these up, inspect and maintain them, operate them during the show and at the end of the week pack them away.

What have been the highlights of your time with Cirque du Soleil so far?

I have worked for Cirque for around two and a half years now, with most of that spent on current show, OVO. There have been so many highlights but visiting Beirut was unusual and is one of my favourite places. Then, a little closer to home, we got to attend the BAFTA gala while we were performing at the Royal Albert Hall in February. You don’t get to do that every day!

What is the new show about?

OVO tells the story of a colony of insects. They live peacefully together until one day a blue fly arrives with a big egg on his back. He instantly falls in love with the Ladybug of the colony and starts fighting to win her affection. He is also quite different from the other bugs and has a hard time being accepted by them. It’s a story about love, acceptance, differences and the sense of community. You’ll see trampolining, tumbling, contortion, slackwire, footjuggling as well as amazing insect costumes.

How many Cirque shows are on-going at any one time around the world?

Currently, the company has 19 different shows touring. We have resident shows as well as big top and arenas shows, like OVO. Each show has over 100 people working for them and there are a lot of people supporting the show operations from the head office in Montreal. In total, over 4,000 people work for Cirque du Soleil.

What sort of performers are involved?

We have performers from all around the world – 14 different countries. Some artists grew up training as professional athletes – we have two Olympians in the show – who retired and decided to pursue their career as performers.

How much time is spent rehearsing a show?

When a show is created from scratch it takes about two years to get it together.

Once a show is on the road, artists continue to rehearse many hours a week. On one-show days, most of the act will have up to an hour of training. On two-show days, the artistic team makes sure to reduce the amount of training so the artists can focus their energies on the show.

Cirque du Soleil: OVO performs two shows in the SSE Hydro, Glasgow, today.