Jeddah’s King Abdallah Sports City (KASC) stadium recently played host to FUZION – a brand-new Cirque du Soleil production that was commission especially for the 2022 Jeddah Season. A tribute to the company’s innovative creative legacy, the show – which ran in Jeddah for 32 adrenaline-packed performances – celebrates Cirque du Soleil’s most iconic acrobatic and theatrical achievements.
Directed by Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar with creative direction by Stefan Miljevic, the lighting and set was designed by Mikki Kunttu, who used 186 Robe BMFL moving lights – making up half of the lighting rig.
The lighting brief included making an “elegant, theatrical, and vivid” impact, with the goal of recreating the splendour and atmosphere of a classic big-top whilst ensuring that each guest experienced a similar sense of intimacy as experienced in a classic big top setting.
The show narrative was based on the adventures of two best friends – Antonio and Sebastian – who, with the world in need of more creativity, friendship and love, embarked on a quest to create magical universes in which these can flourish.
Very strong lighting visuals were at the core of the overall concept, so Kunttu was “delighted” to work with 127 Robe BMFL Blades and 59 BMFL WashBeams as the primary lighting fixtures, supplied by lighting vendor, PRG Middle East.
“The BMFL is a fantastic multipurpose fixture and I think it was a gamechanger in so many ways,” Kunttu commented. “It’s still a great workhorse, widely recognised worldwide and you know what to expect in terms of quality and excellence.” The set and lighting design took ‘big-top shows’ as a starting point, working with a similar shaped stage as classic Cirque productions with stage and lighting rigs shaped to accommodate acts like the Wheel of Death combined with a 270° audience. Unlike a traditional big-top venue where the rigging, flying and access is restricted, the Jeddah venue provided flexibility with ideal space and production facilities.
“Safety and making it look awesome are both critical elements naturally and I always try to deliver both within the same solution. The safety factor is not an add-on, but an integral part of the design from the outset,” noted Kunttu.FUZION was the first time Kunttu had used Robe BMFLs to light this style of show – although he’s used them on several other productions – and he was “extremely satisfied” with the results. All the BMFLs were positioned at the back of Cirque’s custom circular trusses – commonly referred to as ‘the piste’ – and rigged above their circular stage on LX bars 1 and 2.
The reason for opting for the classic front lens type fixtures instead of LED faced ones is the fact that as LED faced wash lights have multiple lenses on the front, their potential blinding effect on the artists cannot be so effectively controlled and is very difficult to predict.
Lighting acrobats safely and spectacularly is one of the hardest tasks in entertainment. According to Kunttu, doing it successfully is “all about homework and meticulously watching the act to see the way they move, how they interact with each other and the technicians and what they need to grab at precise moments. It’s about studying both the technical and the artistic sides of each act and then putting those parameters together with your own creative approach”.
Kunttu worked alongside two programmers – Matti Leinonen on lighting and Alex Hautamäki on video and lighting – all three using MA Lighting grandMA2 light consoles. Video content was designed by Olivier Goulet, and Leinonen remained in Jeddah to run lighting and video for the duration of Jeddah Season.
Marie-Josée Adam was the Executive Producer/Head of Creation. Props were designed by Madeleine Bernatchez and included a disappearing tent comprising 28m by 22m fabric panels that ‘evaporated’ in seconds. John Caran and Geneviève Dorion-Coupal were the acrobatic choreographers, and the acrobatic performances were designed by Germain Guillemot.
The musical director, composer and arranger was Hugo Montecristo, with music played live by a six-piece band. A total of 150 people were involved in the creation and production, with 25 technicians running the show and 39 cast members from 13 different countries and every continent. FUZION was 10 months in development from conception to production, there was a two-week load-in and installation period at KASC, and the performance has been an overwhelming success.
Photos: Mikki Kunttu