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Nicola Dawn Brook on…Saltimbanco

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Singer Nicola Dawn Brook originally hails from Cheadle Hulme in Cheshire but spends most of her time between homes in Kent and Canada these days when she is not travelling with the world renowned Cirque de Soleil. Next month she will be appearing at the Liverpool Echo Arena in the French-Canadian company’s Saltimbanco show, before returning to the Northwest at Manchester’s MEN Arena in June, which is part of the first ever UK arena tour of the production.

Brook has come from a musical theatre background having been in productions of Fame, The Sound of Music, Chess, Hair, and Aspects of Love. She played showgirl Lola in a West End production of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana, which also ran for six weeks at Manchester’s Palace Theatre. In 2006, Brook made an appearance on the ITV1 talent contest The X Factor as a member of The Unconventionals, with Louis Walsh as their mentor.

Saltimbanco, which Brook appeared in when Cirque De Soleil brought the show to the Trafford Centre in 2005, mixes circus stunts with music suitable for any major West End production and is aimed for the whole family.

How many songs do you sing in Saltimbanco?
I sing about seven or eight songs which don’t particularly have a language – it’s a ‘Saltimbanco language’ – but they range from pop, funk and even Celtic. My character is known as Chanteuse or The Songbird, she’s the lead female role.

Where do members of the cast mostly come from?
There are 50 cast members in the show from 21 different countries including Ukraine, Russia, Mongolia, Peru, Argentina, Australia, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Hungary. I’m the only UK representative in this show but there have been a splattering of Brits in other Cirque de Soleil shows. I know when Varekai was touring there was an aerial act from England, two from Manchester I think. Cirque has a company rule that the cast and crew must use the English language to communicate. Those who aren’t from England do English language courses as part of the structure of their learning. I don’t think I could pick up Russian very easily, so it’s great for me! But speaking in the one language also helps for characterisation as well as being a safer option for those doing the acrobatics of course.

How many people are there involved on the tour?
We tour with about 100 people in total. This particular arena show has been touring for three years so it’s become a lot smoother compared to when we first started. There are a lot of people to book onto flights and into hotels! The first few months did not run as smooth as it does now. But the tour has become more of a party now it’s calmer and more of an extreme holiday.

What’s the most daring part of the show?
The Russian Swing is a great number and I like the Duo Trapeze. They equally thrill the audience. But since the show has been touring arenas I think it has become a beautiful spectacle with beautiful lighting and costumes.

How long have you been appearing in Cirque de Soleil shows?
I joined the company in 1996 when I was a wee hen and then came back in 2003 and been in this show since 2007, so I’ve done quite a lot of shows! I first saw Saltimbanco at the Albert Hall in 1995 and within a short period of time I was appearing in it!

Do you get time to rest?
Well, we get two weeks off every ten weeks so wherever we are in the world we can get to go home and see our partners and families. Once we finish this tour of the UK arenas, we will be going back around all of Europe with this show and will also be visiting Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa next year.

Nicola Dawn Brook was speaking to Michael Hunt

Saltimbanco appears at the Liverpool Echo Arena for five nights from 26 May, before it appears at Manchester’s MEN Arena for six nights from 9 June.

For more tour dates, visit the show’s website here


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