It was a year ago this month that the company announced its ambitious aim to build the first of six worldwide entertainment complexes in capital cities. The London complex, as part of a £500 million redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, was to be the first, as well as the company's first permanent base outside of North America. Cirque says it still hopes to build a London complex but is now considering other sites.
Cirque du Soleil was established in Quebec in 1984 by a troupe of street performers. Since then, it has grown to employ over 2,000 people (500 of them performers) presenting seven shows across four continents. To date, the company has sold more than 30 million tickets for its shows, which blend traditional circus skills with street entertainment and big-budget effects.
Built in 1930, Battersea Power Station is a Grade I-listed structure and believed to be the largest brick building in Europe. Its size, its four tall chimneys and its prime location on the south bank of the River Thames have combined to make it one of London's most recognisable landmarks. In the 1970s, it featured on the album cover for Pink Floyd's "Animals". Despite its renown, however, the now-dilapidated station has stood empty since 1975.
Cirque's planned venue at the Power Station was meant to comprise some 2,000 seats and a performance space reaching 50 to 70 metres high (in order to accommodate the circus's famous aerial routines). The company has returned this month to the grounds of the Battersea Power Station for a second consecutive Christmas season of its show Quidam, for which it has erected a specially-built, 2500-seat capacity "Grand Chapiteau" circus tent.
The rest of the redevelopment of the Power Station, led by Hong Kong-based developers Parkview International and agreed by Wandsworth Council, is due to continue.
- by Terri Paddock