It’s been a week of firsts in Saudi Arabia’s capital city. After hosting the Saudi Ad Diriyadh E-Prix race in conjunction with a three-day music festival, Cirque du Soleil kicked off its first touring show, TORUK: The First Flight, in Riyadh on 17 December. Cinemas, music festivals and world-class sporting events are cornerstones of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, as the kingdom plans to diversify its economy by developing entertainment and tourism.
If this week is any indication, the once-cloistered kingdom is gearing up to compete with neighbouring Dubai as a hotspot for recreation and fun in the region. “Arts and entertainment play a vital role in any society,” Janie Mallet, TORUK publicist, told Lonely Planet News. “And we are excited to witness – and be part of – this emerging entertainment sector.”
Honouring KSA’s modesty requirements, minimal variations were made to the show so the Saudi performances will be the same as other global performances, Mallet said.
Piquing Riyadhis’ interest and anticipation, Cirque du Soleil raised its massive and distinctive square white-tented, semi-permanent structure on the grounds of the Granada Mall last weekend.
Inspired by James Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar, TORUK premiered in Montreal in 2015 and has been entertaining audiences around the globe since. Although a first for Saudi Arabia, the tour has visited 16 countries and 85 cities around the globe before its stop in Riyadh.
The 100-plus cast and crew will perform through 29 December with Thursday, Friday and Saturday show times twice daily. The artful troupe of performers hail from 20 different countries, illustrating Cirque’s mission. “We strongly believe in openness, diversity and equality for everyone,” Mallet told Lonely Planet Travel News.
The show’s elaborate multimedia set includes video projections that transport audiences into Pandora’s technicolour jungles and deserts. The TORUK, the show’s 12m-wide and 115kg star, takes six puppeteers to bring it to life. The set, the costumes and special effects are what defines Cirque’s special brand of theatrical magic, and this performance is sure to capture the hearts and imagination of its new Saudi audience.
By Elizabeth Branca
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