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17 juillet 2006

'Delirium' aims to capture rock arena vibe

It's official: Cirque du Soleil is no longer a cirque.

After 22 years of pushing the boundaries of the traditional peanuts-and-clowns -and-elephants act, Cirque du Soleil abandons the big top in its new touring show , ``Delirium," which plays Worcester's DCU Center on Friday and Saturday. ``All the previous Cirque shows were based on what we call an acrobatic skeleton," said Michel Lemieux , the co creator, with Victor Pilon, of the production. ``But with `Delirium' [Cirque du Soleil co founder] Gilles Ste.-Croix wanted a musical skeleton" -- a show built around music, not circus acrobatics.

In a symbol of its new musical identity, ``Delirium" is the first Cirque show to play sports arenas -- the kind that host Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones -- rather than big-top tents. Typical Cirque shows, like its `` Corteo," which will run Sept. 8 to Oct. 8 at Suffolk Downs, stay in a single location for months. ``Delirium," like a rock concert, plays for one or two nights in each city before moving on. That schedule demands a new level of experience and coordination from the crew and the performers. No one involved in the show is under 18 years of age, and the crew is composed of experienced stagehands. ``The pace of the tour is really fast," admitted Carmen Ruest, director of creation for the show.

``Delirium" celebrates Cirque du Soleil's history even while breaking away from it. The show's 21 songs were culled from the hundreds of original compositions used in previous productions, then re mixed with new arrangements and texts. You might call ``Delirium" ``Cirque du Soleil: The Greatest Hits." OK, so there are still acrobats. And you probably won't see a stiltwalker at a Stones arena show. Ruest, who began her career as stiltwalker in Montreal and still keeps a pair of stilts in her office, takes pride in that fact.

``I'm really happy that we have a stiltwalker," Ruest said. ``He's better than me! But I would go back on my stilts next week if you asked me to." ``Delirium" tells the story of a recluse named Bill who experiences life through his computer and television. Through a series of encounters with a motley cast of characters, Bill learns to break out of his virtual existence.

This narrative of alienation appealed to Lemieux, an artist who works in theater, photography, video, and dance. ``This is a very personal story for Victor [Pilon] and me," Lemieux said. ``Today, we live in a fictional world. This is the story of a man who lives in his mind." Lemieux took his inspiration for the show from the famously bombastic arena acts of Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel, as well as communal celebrations like raves and sporting events. ``It's catharsis," he said. ``It's quite important to forget our individuality and feel part of a crowd. Especially in this era of fear, when we lock ourselves in our homes, we need to have collective experiences."

By Michael Hardy, Globe Correspondent | July 16, 2006

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