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Interview with James Mack 2008

Image: James Mack in costume.Delirious for Cirque de Soliel Delirium? Chris High finds out what all the fuss about by speaking with performer, James Mack.


Cirque de Soleil Delirium is, unquestionably, a phenomenon; a multi-faceted event requiring acute coordination and uniting multidisciplinary artists, creators and crew. Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon have designed a show that fuses technical magnitude, human introspection and creative prowess. Only the very best of performers can hope to be involved and, with an impressive CV that has seen him perform with some of the finest musicians in the world, Percussionist, James Mack, is delighted to be involved in the show. ‘They actually called me for an audition after I sent in some demo tapes of my work,’ James explained. ‘I’d done world tours before with people like Kylie Minogue and Westlife, but this is a whole different ballgame as I am actually involved with the performance up front, rather than at the back somewhere, so it’s a totally different experience for me.’

Not usually in his remit, James very quickly had to become an expert makeup artist. ‘I play the part of a warrior and when they first made me up, I thought it was the way these things worked. I was wrong as that first time was the only time they showed me what to do and from then on I had to apply it myself. The first time took an hour and a half. I’m a lot quicker now though, luckily.’

Finding a space for Delirium was quite a challenge. The stage is 104 feet long by 20 feet deep with musical and acrobatic action occupying the entire scene at all times. The sharply sloping seating and the narrow stage submerge the audience in the huge set. 6 musicians, 12 dancers, 6 singers, 9 acrobats and 3 actors occupy the stage at the same time. Fortunately, the new Echo Arena fits the bill nicely. The technical coordination required for this show is demanding. Enough equipment to satisfy two mega rock concerts will be hauled across North America, set up and dismantled within just a few hours in every new city. Above the arena, 2 special rail bridges designed especially for Delirium will support 85, 000 pounds of equipment including 27 motors to permit characters to ‘fly’ as well as lighting and accessories to be moved about during the show. There are 98 rigging points in total. The main character alone will require 2 motors for his actions in the air balloon. Setting up requires 9 hours and is like an enormous game of Tetris, with each piece of puzzle requiring specific coordination and timing. 18 18-wheeled trailers will vehicle the technical equipment from arena to arena. In all, 11 tour buses will transport the artist and the crew. There are122 people on the tour, including 36 artists. The road crew includes 57 technicians, management and artistic support personnel, 29 bus and truck drivers, not to mention the staff hired on site. ‘I know it might sound a bit of a cliché but this really is a show that has everything,’ James said. ‘Dancers, acrobats, musicians, lights, lasers. Two huge I-max screens, plenty of jaw-dropping effects and amazing energy. There are thirteen different countries represented on stage and the whole thing is just so fantastic to see and to be to be involved in. This is a show that outsold The Rolling Stones last year and that says more than I ever could about it, I think. I had one week’s rehearsal in Montreal and then, after I’d learned the score, I found the best policy was to just go for it. Aside from the makeup, learning the choreography was the most challenging aspect for me personally. Given that I’m a percussionist, I don’t normally have to dance so the whole dance thing was so alien to me it was frightening. It’s all worked out great now though and I have another string to my bow.’

And as soon as the cast and crew saw that Liverpool was on the agenda, everybody became excited. ‘Liverpool’s musical heritage is second to none. It has given the world more Number One hit records than any other and, of course, The Beatles. We’ve all been looking forward to coming and especially this year of all years.’

Review: Cirque du Soleil - Delirium from the Liverpool Echo Arena March 2008

Parts of this interview have, or will, appear in other publications and in other formats.

  
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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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