Costumes & Characters
"I centered my research on light weight fabrics and materials. The creation
team, as well as the cutters, the milliners and other wardrobe artists, came up with
real innovations and, in the end, technical miracles, which I would not have been
capable of producing three years ago." — Dominique Lemieux, Costume Designer
A kaleidoscopic journey into the heart of the city, Saltimbanco is inspired by
the urban fabric of the metropolis and its colorful inhabitants. Decidedly baroque
in its visual vocabulary, the show's eclectic cast of characters draws spectators
into a fanciful, dreamlike world, an imaginary city where diversity is a cause for
hope. The dynamism, diversity, and unbridled energy of the big city and its exuberant
fauna are expressed in the colors of the costumes. The polar opposite of gloom and
torpor, the brightness of the primary colors - colors that would make the worlds of
fashion and design: magenta, cyan, yellow and green - evoke the liveliness and
excitement of the metropolis...
If the designer attends the very first rehearsals, it is to study the artists,
their physiological traits and characters they must eventually embody.
Dominique Lemieux, like all the other designers, conducted research to the concept
of urbanity: "Naked Man, Social Man, the seven deadly sins... it’s a baroque experience."
Her reflections led her to underline one particular aspect of the urban environment:
it is a place where differences between humans are multiplied. Lemieux began drawing
the costumes in March of 1991, with only the agreed upon principal theme to go on.
Only three of her original 100 sketches actually became costumes because
individual performers are not selected until later in the design process.
Exercising contrast, a number of Dominique Lemieux's costumes are designed so that
an artist may perform on two levels. The artist's appearance reflects the very
identity of the character - but parts of the costume can be shed to reveal his or
her wildest dreams through a new disguise. The perfect example of this is the harmless
old lady who, under her austere costume, wear the elements of a dream - that of being
a star she imagines wearing daring lingerie. "This costume under the costume is her
secret fantasy; it allows us to see a second personality inside the character."
Most of the Saltimbanco costumes are primarily made from synthetic materials - i.e.
Spandex or Lycra - but also from cotton and silk. The masks, however, were created
from Pododiflex, a polyester resin base. The material becomes very flexible in hot
water and shapes easily; when placed in cold water, it then becomes very hard.
Once shaped, the masks are dipped in latex to make them smooth and then are painted.
This material - normally used for making orthopedic prosthetics - is hypoallergenic,
and permeable to air, making it a good, flexible material for masks. The eccentric
and eclectic costumes of Saltimbanco have a luminous, almost otherworldly quality.
If there is a leitmotiv running through the design, it would be the idea of radiance
Most artists have three to five costumes each which can include up
to 12 individual pieces, including up to 250 pairs of custom-made
shoes. And there are more than 80 different kinds of
buttons that are used to maintain the costumes on-tour.
The Baron is your ageless, timeless guide throughout the world of Saltimbanco.
As an imposing figure in his black and white striped cape, long red gloves and top
hat perched on a pile of serpentine hair, he beckons us with his gravelly voice,
recounting fascinating tales of the past (Juzoom, joozoom!). What secrets lie beyond
the Baron's sardonic grin?
Eddie (The Child)
Before we can find out he has us locked in his hypnotic
gaze! The Baron thinks he has power but really has no authority; at his most
carefree, the Baron loves to party with the Baroques. And when he tears off his cape
to reveal another side of his character - that of an erotic satyr on the prowl -
he shows that he's only the king of fools!
Within the embrace of his parents the child is safe. But the child must discover
his own identity and explore the world beyond his parents' influence. (He is introduced
during the Adagio Trio number at the beginning of the show). Throughout the show, the
child transforms into a series of different characters exploring its identity and the
world beyond parental influence, such as:
Eddie (in his distinctive red cap, black bow
tie, striped shorts and suspenders, Eddie finds adventure in his own imagination.
Whatever he needs, he invents, such as a hilarious pantomime portion that
involves an imaginary overflowing toilet and a stuck bathroom door); and
Death (an ominous reminder of our own mortality, he challenges us to celebrate
life, to experience the present as though we were taking our last breath.)
The Child moves freely between our world and the world of Saltimbanco,
but watch out; he loves to play and won't hesitate to get you in on the act!
The sleeper is a playful, enigmatic character who falls asleep the moment he appears.
Has he conjured Saltimbanco from the depths of his imagination, or is he dreaming within
The Dreamer lives between reality and illusion. He is like a clown, satirizing
and poking fun at the world around him. Dressed in a striped blue costume and with his
long curly tail, the Dreamer is always ready for a nap. But since he is responsible for
looking after The Child, he rarely gets the chance to doze off completely.
In his yellow jumpsuit with his fanciful green vest and cape, the Ringmaster
struts proudly around the world of Saltimbanco. The Ringmaster likes to be the
centre of attention and often steals the show. With his winning smile and natural
charm, he usually gets away with it. The Ringmaster likes to believe he has great
powers and he carries a scepter to prove it. But as everybody within the world of
Saltimbanco knows, it is the Baron who holds ultimate control even if he is
without true power.
The Cavaliers are the gentle protectors. They are calm and serene but could
strike with great force if they needed to defend themselves or someone more
vulnerable. The Cavaliers are elegantly dressed with the tips of their tall black
and white hats pointing towards the future. With their lanterns, they light our
path through the world of Saltimbanco..
The singer, she reflects all human emotion. She is the ever-present town
crier who expresses the soul of Saltimbanco. Her language is universal and her
song reflects the atmosphere around her. Her vocals are emotions — serenity and
excitement, hope and joy, disappointment and melancholy.
The Worms, like all human beings, are born with nothing and are at the very
base of society. All similar in appearance, yet different from one another, they
must, with time, adapt themselves to their environment. Thus, as the world of
Saltimbanco evolves, they embody various types of social characters, hoping on
day to accede to the rank of Baroque, a cast of visionaries.
There are two classes of Worms within the framework of Saltimbanco, those referred
to as the Urban Worms (the Vers Masqués) - the faceless masses, those who follow
the status quo, never to risk, to express, to gain; They are anonymous beings
confined by their daily routine, incapable of accepting or affirming their
individually - and the Multicolored worms (Vers Multicolores), the simplest of
all, who follow their most primal urges and concerning themselves only with survival.
Independent and courageous with a slight anarchist streak, the Baroques are
true urbanites who know how to make the most of what the city has to offer; they
are children of the street who live in the moment, sleeping under bridges to
later emerge and celebrate life! Defiant, rebellious, explosive, they are
enlightened beings whose free spirits run wild. Armed with a deeply perceptive
vision of the world, the Baroques, throughout the fable, reveal the countless
contradictions of our civilization where imagination has not yet taken power and
reflect upon the extreme personalities of urban dwelling - both in their beauty
and wretchedness. Their appearance on stage triggers an explosion of color - a
shining symbol of the meeting of cultures in the big city.