DELIRIUM, marketed as the quest for balance in a world that was "increasingly out
of sync with reality, pushing the limits of arena performance through technical
magnitude, human introspection and creative prowess," was an urban tale, a
state-of-the-art mélange inspired by theatre, music, dance, and multimedia that
pushed beyond the traditional limits of arena performance in its integration of
sound and visuals. Pumped by this re-energized Cirque du Soleil rhythm, the
DELIRIUM tour transported audiences into a universe of delirious sensory folly.
And it turned into the most massive technical production ever created to tour a
renas at the time.
Finding a rehearsal space for DELIRIUM was quite a challenge! In
the end, two locations were chosen for the monumental set up, including an abandoned
[ Set & Stage •
The production was truly larger than life, performed on a unique stage configuration
open to both front and back. The 136-foot wide, 80-foot high, and 20-foot deep stage
bisects the arena longitudinally, dividing the arena into two intimate spaces that allow
all members of the audience to be immersed in the show, feeling front and center no
matter where they are seated. The production itself dwarfs even the largest of rock
shows, with 20 18-wheelers hauling the equipment and 14 tour busses for the artists
and crew. The production crew also includes a technical staff of 73, as well as 25
management and support people. Placing all this equipment into an arena is a complex
puzzle normally reserved for stadiums, however. The technical coordination required
was demanding. Enough equipment to satisfy two mega rock concerts was hauled across
North America and Europe, set up and dismantled within just a few hours in every new
Above the arena, two custom-built rail bridges support 130,000 pounds of equipment,
including 22 Show Distribution SD-800S motors that control the "flying" characters,
as well as lighting and accessories to be moved about during the show. The main
character alone requires four motors for his actions in the air balloon (two running
at 4' per sec. and the other two at variable speeds). Three generators carrying 2,700W
are needed to run the show. During the rehearsal process, Lemieux says that an arena
rigging specialist told him that the show was "too heavy," and he did not mean
emotionally. "Literally, the show had too much weight," he says. "We had to really
work to make it lighter and we found a new type of truss. It's quite a challenge
because this truss has to be quite solid. In the end we had exactly the concept we
wanted, just had to work harder."
Because of Delirium's technical needs, Lemieux and Pilon had to put on their inventor
caps in order to get the effects that they wanted. "Everybody loved the ideas we had,
but the gear was not available because it did not exist. We had to create things for
this show," Lemieux explains. "Victor and I read the [equipment] instruction manuals,
and we do the opposite. When people ask us how we did something, we just tell them we
do it with the same equipment they use, but in a different way." One of the pieces of
equipment especially designed for Delirium was a motor truss. "We have two rail motors
and six programmed motors that can carry people and scenery. Some are preprogrammed,
and some are manual. When you work with acrobats, you have to suddenly go into manual
mode. For a piece of set, you can program it, and it's always the same. With acrobats,
you have to wait till the acrobat finishes and touches ground before going to the next
Another custom-made piece of equipment is a lighting fixture that hosts an acrobat who
is attached to fixture like "hooking onto a star," Lemieux says. The fixture is a
combination of a dozen automobile headlights, complete with a battery pack and
controlled via wireless DMX. The battery pack, too, was something created especially
for Delirium. The effect is awe-inspiring, according to Lemieux, because the acrobat
appears to be riding a star through the heavens. Alain Lortie, Lighting Designer, had
used wireless technology in the past but was unimpressed because there had been a great
deal of delay. "I was really surprised at how efficient the wireless system has been,"
he says. "I think the next generation of moving lights will have their own wireless DMX
inside, and you'll just need to bring the power to the lamps." He adds that there will
always be cable to be run for a production, but if you can reduce that count by at least
one, then the electricians will be happy.
The wireless technology used to control the show's lighting makes extensive use of
Sweden-based Wireless Solutions W-DMX. The system delivers DMX data from point A to
point B but does not provide power output for dimming. RC4's Wireless Dimming System
from Toronto-based Theatre Wireless provides integral dimming, but the designers did
not want more than one wireless protocol running in the same show. Their solution was
to use RC4's DMX-4WL dimmers, which look much like standard RC4 dimmers, but replace
the digital radio with a DMX input. A short DMX cable runs from a W-DMX receiver to a
4WL dimmer. Each dimmer uses rotary dip-switches to set DMX channels, dimmer curves,
and digital persistence levels. While using two separate devices occupies a little more
space and is a little more work to set up than an integrated RC4 receiver/dimmer, the
results are stunning, and it does the job. Delirium uses 11 DMX-4WL-HO (four-channel,
1000W units) and 11 DMX-4WL-MINI (four-channel, 200W units).
Like Lemieux and Pilon, Lortie also had to consider weight when he was assembling the
lighting rig. "I used  Vari-Lite VL2500 spots because they are smaller and lighter.
I have more of those in the overhead rig. I have  VL3500 spots, which are heavier,
but they are ground supported with booms or on the floor." There are also 30 VL3000
spots and 34 VL3000 washes in the rig along with four Martin Atomic 3000 strobes, eight
Clay Paky Stage Scans, and seven Syncrolite SX3K-2s. LEDs also make an appearance along
the edge of the stage, with 100 Chroma-Q Color Blocks and 196 Color Kinetics iColor
Cove MX Powercore units. All controlled by a MA grandMA console.
The unusual, dissected performance space also gave Lortie an extra set of challenges;
he quickly realized that lighting Delirium would be entirely different from anything he
had ever done before. "When the audience is just on one side it's much easier to create
some ambiance and backlight," he says. "But with this setup, a nice looking backlight
on one side becomes a harsh Front of House (FOH) on the other side. Our setup is
essentially a mirror image of the other side but we did try to give the same look for
both sides of the audience and that's not always easy to achieve."
Delirium is very much a moving light show; Lortie uses only 20 PAR fixtures because
he wanted to make the tour a "no focus show. You have to have time to make sure
conventionals are in the right position," he explains. "[With moving lights], it's
easier to track the show from the console on a daily basis rather than sending someone
to the fixture to aim it to specific points. Weight-wise, moving lights are heavier,
but you need fewer because they do more."
Aside from the weight restrictions, Lortie also focused on giving the show the right
look. "It was a big change from under the big top," he says. "It was really important
to respect all of the video. When using white scrim, if you turn on one light on stage,
it casts a glow that can detract from the drama of the projections." He also had to
pay special attention to the performers' needs as well. In other shows that Lortie
has designed, the lighting often tended to be the focal visual aspect, but he knew
that Delirium was an entirely different proposition altogether, considering how the
various design elements are melded into a singular sensation. In the case of Delirium,
Lortie considered his lighting as simply another tool — like audio, dance, music, or
video — for the directing team of Lemieux and Pilon to use as they pleased.
Multimedia definitely plays a key role in DELIRIUM. Spectators are treated to gigantic,
crystal-clear images with infinite possibilities for projections on screens, floors,
and the audience. In all, DELIRIUM has 540 square feet of projection space dominating
the scene, the equivalent of almost 4 IMAX screens. Projection screens include 4
state-of-the-art roll-up screens suspended from the top of the arena, 2 tulle screens
that stand at the stage extremities and 4 wings. 18 25-kW, 50,000-lumen Christie
projectors including one in the main character's air balloon cast images around the
arena. A unique system of pre-recorded, animated and manipulated live images keeps
up with the musical tempo and insures the audience is alert.
The sound system created by audio designer Yves Savoie was conceived as dual, opposing
setups to cover both sides of the stage, using a total of 96 of Meyer Sound's MICA
compact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers. Each side sports three towers of 16
MICA cabinets, along with two columns of five 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers. Six
M1D ultra-compact curvilinear array loudspeakers per side act as frontfill for the
first few rows of floor seating, with a handful of CQ-1 wide coverage main loudspeakers
added to fill in some front corners.
On stage, six UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers per side act as monitors for
the dancers, while 16 M3D-Sub directional subwoofers underneath the stage reinforce
the performance's substantial rhythmic content, a benefit for the dancers as well as
for the audience. The production plans to integrate Meyer Sound's Galileo loudspeaker
management system into the existing network in December, in order to utilize Galileo's
air absorption compensation filtering and array compensation presets.
FOH engineer Renate Petruzziello mixes the show on a Yamaha PM1D digital console,
handling over 200 inputs on 80 channels. "In some of the smaller venues, we will use
only 12 or 14 MICAs (per tower)," explains Andre Jr. Pichette, Delirium's audio
systems designer. "That's the genius of this setup: that we can change it so easily
to adapt to the hall. Also, the rigging allows us to tip each cabinet as much as we
need to reach the very uppermost seats. Most line arrays can't do that.
"Even more important for us is the MICA's self-powered design," Pichette adds.
"Delirium is such a massive production, and we have very limited space backstage. With
a traditional speaker setup, we would need about eight more amp racks back here, which
would be impossible. And with the MICA, it's just one cable carrying signal, RMS (Meyer
Sound's remote monitoring system), everything." Pichette also cites the impact of
loudspeaker cable lengths in a traditionally powered system. "With speaker cable, the
signal begins to really deteriorate after 100 feet. We have 250 feet of cable from
backstage to the center columns, so our sound quality would definitely suffer with
a passive system."
"Cirque shows are generally pretty complex productions, but in most cases it's a semi-
permanent installation in a single venue," Petruzziello observes. "The challenge with
Delirium is that we deal with two or three different arenas every week – one might
sound pretty good, another might not. It's always a challenge. The Meyer gear has made
our lives so much easier. I don't know what other system we could use that would have
all its versatility. Particularly the MICAs, using 16 on each cluster, gives us a lot
of flexibility. It really simplifies things when you have a system that's so easily
As visually compelling and brilliant as the dual-sided stage design may be, its
acoustical challenges are even trickier than traditional theatre-in-the-round. Creating
sound for two opposing stages in an arena setting is a situation with great potential
for problems, so Pichette gets an early start assessing each new room with MAPP Online
Pro acoustical prediction software.
"With each new venue, I come in the morning, around 7:00 or so. I take my measurements
and design the system in AutoCAD, then check with MAPP Online, print out a sheet, and
begin to install it. It's so simple. By 8:45 I'm usually 'SIMing' (tuning the system
with a SIM 3 audio analyzer), then we wait for the stage setup, and usually we're
finished setting up the audio by around 1:00 PM."
Another challenge in doing sound for dual stages is the reality of only hearing one
half of the system. "Andre takes care of all the speaker control from over by the
FOH position, and he really relies on SIM 3 and RMS (Meyer Sound's remote monitoring
system) to monitor the system," Lachance observes. "It's really critical to have good
quality high-end monitoring like that, particularly in a unique setup like this one.
If you're just listening to what you can hear from your own vantage point, you're on
a path to destruction. Those people on the other side of the arena are not going to
tell you if your PA is out. You have to be confident that it's sounding good everywhere,
even in the places you can't hear."
"Close to the stage there's the additional challenge of balancing the sound from the
stage with the sound from the speakers," Pichette explains. "There's a lot of
percussion going on, and in many of the pieces the drums and percussion move across
the stage, creating a lot of sound in the house. So it becomes a matter of bringing
things in and out of the PA at the right times, just for those zones. The combination
of MICA and SIM 3 is great for that."
"This is not exactly your standard setup," observes Petruzziello in a classic
understatement, "but with the MICA, it's possible to make it work. Andre is a big
part of it too. He's got a lot of experience using Meyer gear, and comes up with
ideas I'd never have thought of. He's also something of a perfectionist, which is
really inspiring to work with, and great to be able to depend on."