Cirque du Soleil promises unforgettable Riyadh Season show

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Cirque du Soleil Bazzar set up a white tent out of consideration for visitors, as darker shades would heat up. (AN Photo)
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Cirque du Soleil’s wardrobe team worked hard on modifying 15 outfits out of respect for the Saudi culture and traditions. (AN Photo)
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Cirque du Soleil Bazzar will bring in 32 performers of different nationalities to deliver 10 powerful acts for the Riyadh Season. (AN Photo)
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Lauren Joy Herley worked on Cirque du Soleil Sand during Saudi National Day in 2018, and she loved Saudi Arabia’s enthusiastic reactions during the performance, calling them ‘very vocal.’ (AN Photo)
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Lauren Joy Herley is loving her character, the Floating Woman, who is rebellious and a trickster, but has good intentions and loves to have fun. (AN Photo)
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Cirque du Soleil Bazzar will bring in 32 performers of different nationalities to deliver 10 powerful acts for the Riyadh Season. (AN Photo)
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Cirque du Soleil’s wardrobe team worked hard on modifying 15 outfits out of respect for the Saudi culture and traditions. (AN Photo)
Updated 01 November 2019

Cirque du Soleil promises unforgettable Riyadh Season show

  • Cirque du Soleil Bazzar tells the tale of a maestro and a floating woman who keeps disrupting him and a mini maestro who wants to take his leading role
  • The acrobatic performers on stage will be accompanied by three musicians — one of them can play up to 17 instruments

RIYADH: Set in a white tent at Riyadh Front, the international team of artists and crew behind the sensational Cirque du Soleil gathered to prepare for their opening night on Nov. 1 as part of the Riyadh Season.

The show’s publicist Nicolas Chabot told Arab News about Cirque du Soleil Bazzar, which will tell the tale of a maestro and a floating woman who keeps “disrupting” him and a mini maestro who wants to take his leading role.

“People come to see Cirque du Soleil shows to see acrobatic acts, and Bazzar will hold 10 impressive acts with 32 artists in the choreographed show. We have beautiful costumes and amazing music in what is known as contemporary circus,” he said.

That means there will be no animal tricks during the show. Instead, it will have a mixture of acts, dance, music and theater. “That is what Cirque du Soleil has been doing for 35 years,” added Chabot.

The acrobatic performers on stage will be accompanied by three musicians — one of them can play up to 17 instruments. But unlike operas and plays, the acrobatic performance will lead the music. The songs will vary from pop to folk and classical music, to appeal to all ears.

This is not Lauren Joy Herley’s first visit to Saudi. The performer who plays the floating woman, a rebellious trickster, in Bazzar was part of Cirque du Soleil’s Sand on Saudi National Day last year, and she is excited to be back.

“Last year in Riyadh, the audience was very, very vocal, and I am hoping they are this year too,” she said.

As an intimate show, Herley thinks that “it brings about a raw, energetic atmosphere that does not rely on projections and side effects but the individuals that you see bringing their presence and skill.”

She said she was very proud to present Cirque du Soleil to Saudi Arabia, describing her previous experience as “different but positive.”

In order to show respect for Saudi audiences and to the kingdom’s culture, head of wardrobe Alexandra revealed that they had to modify 15 outfits.

But that did not decrease the performers’ mobility. “We made sure the artists trained in their modified outfits, and everyone is really excited for their upgraded clothes.”

Rania Al-Ghamdi, from Jeddah, has been a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil and she pledged to visit Bazzar during the Riyadh Season. Part of her obsession goes back to the fact that the circus giants refuse to incorporate animals in their performances, and were against it from the start.

“They spread awareness by leading by example, a movement that is led by many nowadays, but they did it first,” she said.

Al-Ghamdi also likes that there is always a tale to their performances; it is not “just an acrobatic show,” the costumes, makeup, the story, the art and the effort they put into their shows are what makes them unrivaled.

“They dig deep and research, learn languages to create songs that tell the tale in a very artistic way,” she added.

Cirque du Soleil Bazzar will open on Nov. 1 until Dec. 7 to dazzle the Riyadh Season, before moving on to the Caribbean.


A narrow, airbrushed take on the Syrian war

“Between Two Brothers” screened at the recent Cairo International Film Festival. (Supplied)
Updated 20 January 2020

A narrow, airbrushed take on the Syrian war

  • Syrian auteur Joud Said’s latest feature is based on the Syrian war and its impact on two siblings.

CHENNAI: Syrian auteur Joud Said’s latest feature, “Between Two Brothers” — which screened at the recent Cairo International Film Festival — is based on the Syrian war and its impact on two siblings.

Khaldoun (Mohammad al-Ahmad) and A’rif (Lujain Ismaeel) see their relationship torn apart by the strife in Syria, leading to agonizing days for their childhood sweethearts, twins Nesmeh and Najmeh.

A’rif goes to war, aligning himself with anti-government forces, while Khaldoun, who had been spending time outside his country, returns to mayhem.

The characters see their world turn upside down when A’rif kidnaps several men and women from the village. Nesmeh and Najmeh are part of the hostages and what ensues is a dilemma that sees A’rif turn  violent and vindictive.

Each brother has his own opinion on what is right and what is wrong about the war and this leads to a chasm opening up between them.

The director, who has come under heavy fire in the past for his supposedly pro-government views, is controversial to say the least.

In 2017, Syrian director Samer Ajouri withdrew his entry “The Boy and the Sea”  from the Carthage Film Festival in protest at the selection of Said’s feature, “Rain Of Homs.” Later, in 2018, Egyptian director Kamla Abu-Zikry accused Said of helming films which represented the Assad government’s viewpoint.

Despite the director defending his films in a clutch of newspaper interviews, it should be noted that “Between Two Brothers” was produced by Syria’s National Film Organization.

Said makes a pitiful attempt to teach the audience that each side has its reasons. But it is not hard to see where the tilt lies — we do not see any state security forces and violence erupts solely from the rebels’ ranks. In a way, “Between Two Brothers” airbrushes the destructiveness of war, with blatant symbolism and a couple of comedy scenes further eroding a subject as grim as this.

Yes, there are some visually arresting shots of the countryside captured with articulation and imagination by cinematographer Oukba Ezzeddine and the actors who played both brothers did a fair turn in their roles, but all in all it was far too narrow a representation of war to be effective.