Cirque du Soleil goes China

Hangzhou Suntiandy Theatre

Reading Time: 4 min 49 sec

X – The Land of Fantasy: An exciting story of a heroine and a hero reuniting their two kingdoms after centuries of strife.

A war broke out between the two kingdoms of Petra and Aria many centuries ago, sparked by intrigue. A seal in the form of a yin-yang crest representing a dragon and a phoenix has been broken. This seal stood for the harmony between the kingdoms.

The hero and heroine therefore team up to find a way to restore peace. They experience many adventures and have to overcome some hurdles. The story of X is told by a wise elder known as “The Watcher”.

Video credits: Cirque du Soleil 

A fascinating experience that no audience in the world has ever seen before

In October 2018, Cirque du Soleil announced the first resident show in China, ‘X: The Land of Fantasy’. The new theater was built in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.

Unique in this show, stage and auditorium mix – the audience becomes part of the show. When you buy an entry ticket you are assigned to a kingdom – Aria or Petra. These two kingdoms are symbolized by two large rotating wagons in the colors red and yellow. The two grandstands also have their own heroine and heroes and the spectators can experience the adventures up close.

Waagner-Biro Stage Systems delivered two stage wagons with an integrated turntable and ascending rows of seats. These grandstands with a diameter of 30 x 27 m can drive 27 m and also rotate through 360 ° (at a speed of 2 m / s). There is space for 721 spectators on each wagon.

The audience is thus put in the middle of the action. This was not only unique for us, but will also be a new experience for the audience worldwide. The horizontal as well as the 360 ​​° movement let the viewers follow the action from ever new perspectives and immerse themselves in the action more and more.

As can be read on the Cirque du Soleil website, the play is “an epic and exciting quest to reunite two ancient kingdoms”.
The opening took place in August 2019.

Video credits: Cirque du Soleil 

Overcoming cultural differences

Our project and site manager Patrick Sonnleitner has been involved in the project from the start and has carried it out successfully.

WB Stage: Patrick can you give us a brief overview of the project?

P. Sonnleithner: A new theater was built in Hangzhou and the show was produced by Cirque du Soleil.
The focus is on acrobatic shows of artists and special effects by e.g. fire or water. Stage technology is a key part of the show.

WB Stage: What is the scope of delivery of Waagner-Biro Stage Systems?

P. Sonnleithner: We have supplied two 30 x 27 m large ‘seating wagons’. The spectators take a seat on these two carriages, which are movable and rotatable. The capacity per wagon is 721 people. The special thing is that the wagons are surrounded by stages and effects. The artists move around and the audience is integrated in the middle of the performance.

WB Stage: What is so special about a show theater?

P. Sonnleithner: Unlike opera or theater houses, this form does not require a “telling” story. The story lives by the acrobats, special effects and audio-visual presentations.

WB Stage: How long was Waagner-Biro Stage Systems on site?

P. Sonnleithner: Construction started on October 12, 2017. The acceptance by the customer took place in January 2019.

WB Stage: What general and technical challenges are there in this project?

P. Sonnleithner: Because spectators sit on these wagons and also because of the size of the wagons, the greatest difficulty was to achieve smooth running (noises, vibrations) when driving and turning. Due to the number of installations (ventilation, motors, show effects, loudspeakers, …), a large number of supply and data lines from the mainland to the wagons are provided.

WB Stage: How many times have you been there?

P. Sonnleithner: From the beginning of the project, I was there in my capacity as project manager, about once a month for meetings, technical and logistical inquiries, and later to monitor the progress of construction on the building site. From May 2018 I also took over the construction management. After that, I was on the construction site in China, about 80% of my working time, until the handing over.

WB Stage: How is the cooperation with local companies?

P. Sonnleithner: Due to the intercultural differences, cooperation is more sophisticated than with European companies. For most Chinese companies, it is the first collaboration with a western company.

After getting to know each other and compromising on both sides, we created a cooperative basis and the work was characterized by the common will to implement a successful project for the customer.

Most meetings and all correspondence were held in two languages (English / Chinese). Since most translators remained the same throughout the entire project, a clear learning curve was noticed. As soon as everyone involved knew each other, the communication problems decreased considerably. Everyone knew about the peculiarities of the other.

WB Stage: What does a daily routine look like on the construction site?

P. Sonnleithner: Due to the complexity and the large number of contractors (audio/video, house technic, decoration, control, chair supplier, ..) who mounted on our wagon, there were countless coordination meetings. Tracking the progress of construction, delivery tracking and continuous quality controls were daily part of my work. With problems of whatever kind, solutions were quickly found and decisions made.

WB Stage: What are the differences to European construction sites?

P. Sonnleithner: There is still a lot to be done by hand and on site, as working hours in China are significantly cheaper compared to material costs than in Europe.

WB Stage: How many employees of Waagner-Biro Stage Systems were working on site?

P. Sonnleithner: There were always between 1 – 5 people on site.

WB Stage: What do you take from this project to change something in future projects?

P. Sonnleithner: The coordination was a big important factor in this project. The sooner all parties have the same understanding of the expiration, the easier and smoother it is later implemented. We became more and more aware of this in the course of the construction site and after the first stumbling blocks we were able to steer the project in a targeted manner and successfully complete it.

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