Quidam, as defined in the program for Cirque du Soleil's ninth production, is "a nameless passerby, a solitary figure lingering on a street corner... a soul that cries out, dreams, and sings within us all." With that image in mind, the Cirque du Soleil has created in Quidam a haunting theatrical experience which has been touring internationally since 1997.
"We wanted to make sure we did something a little different," says Cirque's lighting designer Luc Lafortune. From images by French photographer Robert Doisneau of people in public places, bars, and streets to images of thousands of refugees on the march, or a train station with its joyful reunions and tragic separations, Quidam draws upon the experience of the individual. "When you snap the camera and isolate a moment in a personal history, the emotion comes out," says Lafortune. "We wanted to emphasize that experience in Quidam."
Lafortune's rig includes ETC Source Fours, plus Clay Paky Super Scans that provide patterns and texture but do not move during the production. "The color of the incandescent light of the Source Four with the cold white of the Super Scans makes the whiteness seem discomforting in contrast," says Lafortune. "There is nothing pretty about people who are displaced."
Bringing to mind an old European train station with spans of arched steel, the set for Quidam is based around a five-track metal framework that measures 120' (37m) long and arches out over the black stage floor and the audience; 500 household light bulbs are integrated into the tracks. "The lighting is almost all overhead and front-of-house," notes Lafortune. "This flattens things out but allows you to feel a certain rawness."
Quidam is controlled by an ETC Expression console, with rolling racks for 168 ETC Sensor dimmers. Lafortune has also used a few small strobes from High End Systems, some Strand 2k fresnels, and strings of clear bulbs strung around the bigtop as house lights. "At low intensity the bulbs glow like a string of pearls or fireflies," says Lafortune, who added touches reminiscent of Fellini and Magritte.
For Quidam, Lafortune admits to "throwing out the book of rules on lighting. It is powerful and sometimes disruptive, but not necessarily pretty."