Posts Tagged ‘australian premiere


Cavalia – a chat with Artistic Director Normand Latourelle




ABOUT CAVALIA INC. – Headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Cavalia Inc. operates two separate touring shows, Cavalia and Odysseo, both of which marry the equestrian arts, stage arts and high-tech theatrical effects at never-before-seen levels. Cavalia, seen by some 3.5 million people across North America and Europe since its 2003 debut, celebrates the relationship between humans and horses by loosely recounting the evolution of this bond. Odysseo, which premiered in autumn 2011, takes the next step, leading viewers on a journey through some of the breathtaking landscapes horses have helped humans discover around the globe. Follow Cavalia Inc.’s latest developments at or


In his 40-year career in the performing arts, Normand Latourelle has followed a path that has led him through all aspects of the industry, having occupied every position from lighting designer to agent, production manager, director and artistic director. A pioneer of Cirque du Soleil from 1985 to 1990, he has been the driving force behind many impressive and memorable events, such as the sound and light show on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and the 350th anniversary celebrations for the founding of Montreal. A visionary in constant quest for innovation, Normand Latourelle is renowned for combining different forms of artistic expression and reinventing the scenic space, with the ultimate goal of taking audiences to new dimensions. Since 2003, Normand Latourelle has been fully dedicated to Cavalia, instilling his talent, passion and imagination into the productions. In 2007, he received the Ordre national du Québec for his achievements.


I was lucky to catch up with Cavalia’s Artistic Director, Normand Latourelle, for a chat about his spectacular shows, and his approach to working with horses. This is actually our chat transcribed so sit down with your preferred beverage and enjoy the conversation…


XS: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk, Normand. You’re the artistic Director of an incredible new show, opening in Brisbane on Wednesday night. I think it’s safe to say there’s nothing like Cavalia. We’ve certainly not seen anything like it here.

NL: In Europe and the states there’s no other show to compare it. So it’s about time we come to Australia. We’re very pleased to finally bring it to Australia.

It’s a challenge but I decided to bring the whole show, you know, not just the smaller version of the show. That was very important to me.

XS: I guess you didn’t want to compromise on the integrity of the show, of your vision.

NL: No, we didn’t.

You know we travel with about fifty-five, fifty-six horses and we have a farm in Canada so, you know, when we feel it’s necessary, we just exchange horses… The director is looking after the horses here.


XS: Can you tell me about the horses? Your approach to training and working with the horses?

NL: The thing is we’re trying to follow their rhythm and not impose on them our rhythm. We want them to come on stage and be happy so in order to do that we just…we don’t push them. So when they come on stage we want them to feel like it’s their playground, not a place to work, not a place they don’t want to go. And that’s very important you see, because for the first half of the show we have three horses on stage… they improvise with … some kind of improvisation. It’s choreographed, obviously, but if the horse decides to do differently we have to follow them… I would say, compared to the horse world in general, it’s a soft way to train horses in general.

XS: Are your artists already accustomed to working with the horses in this way?

NL: We have three type of artists. The woman that is our musician, so that’s a separate group, and we have the acrobats and the riders. So we, of course when we bring acrobats, we have to add the acrobats become involved with the horses and start to do their own training with the horses to make them understand what the horse is all about. I mean, some of the acrobats who are there for a long time, for a year or a year and a half, also start to become riders so it’s a long process. For the riders, we hired riders who are in very good shape, we also train some riders, and we have some riders who are trained in acrobatics on the horse also, of course. If they don’t do acrobatics we train them to do so. It’s also a long process to make an acrobat become a rider or a rider become an acrobat.

The most important thing is that all of them have to know the horses that are on stage at the same time as them.


XS: So because the performers are following the horses and allowing them to improvise, does that mean the show is continually evolving? Do we never see the same show twice?

NL: That’s totally right. The show varies, from one show to the next the show varies 10 minutes, minus or plus, and most of the time it’s because the horses decide differently and we follow them. And for me it’s not a problem.

This is where we get the best out of them is when they do what they want and sometimes they follow the pattern we offer them but other times they do it the way they want, which is also okay for us. You know, it’s not – compared to a traditional circus – you know, at the end of a number in a traditional circus, the trainer raises his arm and says ta-dah, it’s all about me, I can totally control my horses. In our show it’s about the horses so instead of raising our hand, the artist directs their hand to the horse and praises the horse to be such a partner. It’s a totally different approach.


XS: You’ve completely reversed the traditional notion of  humans controlling animals.

NL: Yeah, definitely. You know, when we – I’m one of the guys who started Cirque du Soleil – and when we started the show, I was very, very proud to explain that, you know, we were able to do a good show, a good circus, without animals, and we were totally against using animals in the show. So when I decided to move to the animal world, first of all I understood very fast working with horses. Horses were domesticated animals. I would never do a show with elephants or lions. But horses are domesticated animals and during their life with humans for the last five thousand years, it’s nothing new and it’s nothing that is going to change tomorrow because even if all the horses become wild tomorrow they will not, they will come back to their stable. The other part which was very important for me is that I decided to do a show with animals and I want the animals to be able to express themselves and also to enjoy what they do, and from the beginning that’s what I’ve been telling the trainer and telling all the artists and creators, co-creators…that was the rule. And that’s what we’ve pretty much achieved. I mean, we make some mistakes sometimes and you know, we don’t yield, I mean it’s a thin line, you know they’re still animals, they don’t think like us and sometime we react some way and they don’t like it.

But the idea is to be very humble and also to be able to understand at first what’s going on with the animal, that’s more important. The same thing we have a lot of art where we ride the horses, because I’m talking a lot about the parts where we don’t ride, where the horses are free on stage…when we have up to eight horses together doing the same thing. You know, I accept that the horse do not have their heads at the same level, where the horses have to be exactly, exactly precise and doing the same thing.

Cavalia is not a competition, it is more about the relationship between humankind and horses. And yes, in the last five thousand years we have ridden horses, and that’s what is also part of the show – we do ride them – but we don’t push them to the point they become top dressage competition horse, just show what they can do. It’s the same thing, we have a horse that jumps bars at one point in the show, you know, we don’t raise the bar as high as the world…even if he could do it, we’re not putting the bars as far as what you can do at the Olympics or any competition. We just think that it’s beautiful to see the horse jump and we just ask him to do reasonably high, to be at the same time impressive but not to hurt himself; not to put in any kind of danger.


XS: So the respect for the horses wins in the end. More so than story? Do we get a story as well or is it more about enjoying the beauty and strength and power of the horses?

NL: Well, it’s a mix of both. We do have a very subtle storyline that come from the discovery of the horse and slowly it built from communication and there are a lot of moment at the beginning of the show where we just share the space and we discover them and they discover us and we become friends, and then we start to climb on them, which they accept, you know, gently to be climbed on. And we feel the pace of the show this way is more that we move through the time. It’s also showed by the multi-media aspect of the show.

We have large-scale images that project, that shows expression of human through the time of what we have seen from horses. One of the first images we project is a man cave and on the wall of the man cave is a drawing of the horse…so we project that image and then we go to our time. The images are very artistic but at the same time, it gives you a feeling of moving through time. It’s not explicit, it’s not a historical, it’s more done like a poem, you know, the way you write a poem. It doesn’t start with “once upon a time”, it more starts with “this happened…”

XS: Since 2003 has Cavalia undergone many changes conceptually?

NL: For audiences who saw Cavalia in 2003 they will recognise maybe thirty percent of it. We have changed about seventy percent of it. There’s two or three reasons. Every time in a show like that, every time you change a horse or you change an artist, you have to adapt the show to their own personality…the other thing is that you know, when I started this show, I knew nothing about horses, it was my first experience in the horse world so I learned about it and that’s the beauty of having a live show, throughout the year I was able to upgrade some parts and bring the technology, it had evolved, and it became a little bit bigger. When we started the show we had only two acrobats flying and now we have five of them.

We just push it and also, I tried to bring the show to a point where we appreciate equally, all of the parts. When I was first in the show, for the first year, there were some parts in the show I was not happy with so I took a year to adapt to a show I liked, then hopefully, the show I see is the show everybody like.

XS: Did you ever think you were going to be working with horses? What did you want to be when you grew up?

NL: Well, when I was younger I wanted to be a doctor, until I had to go to the hospital…and then my ideas changed, I wanted to become a politician…until I was kicked out of school by the director so that also changed my mind…I was so frustrated that I decided to put on some shows….I created my first show, I was about thirteen years old, and I left school at sixteen to become professional and I always did that. I create and produce. I’ve done everything. I’ve done light design, I’ve done sound design, I’ve been a roadie, I drove trucks. There’s nothing here that I haven’t done. Publisher, record producer…Cavalia for me is like, you know, the achievement of all the experience I had, including Cirque du Soleil experience.

It took me ten years from having the idea to having the first show of Cavalia. What you see in Cavalia is the mix of everything I know: lights, sound, music, large-scale images, special effects, of course acrobatics, dance, and of course now, the equestrian world.


XS: Are you already working on the next show? We are looking forward to hearing more about Odysseo…

NL: Odysseo just got started a year ago, I’m still tweaking it, still working on it, so I have no plans for a third one because it’s a long process. You know, its always long because not only I want my show to be so different – I challenge myself – to create things that nobody ever seen before. That’s what the challenge was with Cirque and that is the challenge with Cavalia, you know, make the horses comfortable in another environment. But I didn’t want to make another copy of Cavalia so Oddyseo is like the limit of what can be done on stage, and for the next one I don’t know exactly.

XS: Thank you so much for your time today, and congratulations on the Australian premiere of Cavalia! We’ll see you on Wednesday for opening night!





Managing Carmen

Managing Carmen

Managing Carmen

Queensland Theatre Company & Black Swan State Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

13th October – 4th November 2012


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


I tell you what. Get your iCal out in front of you, work out when you can go (at least once), get onto the Queensland Theatre Company’s website to book your tickets and then come back to this window to read my review. Otherwise you might miss out on seeing DAVID WILLIAMSON’S BEST PLAY YET.


“David Williamson has the ability to pinpoint a societal issue and expose it through his unique satirical lens.”

Wesley Enoch


Managing Carmen is outstanding. It’s tighter, funnier, slicker and more satirical than anticipated. The text is peppered with gag lines, perfectly timed; only a master craftsman like Williamson can convincingly achieve this sort of perfect comedy. It’s already on its way to becoming a massive box office success and it’s essential viewing for anyone who loves their footy and/or high fashion. Or who wants to be entertained during a night out at the theatre. Not such a rare thing in Brisbane this year. Aren’t we lucky?!


Managing Carmen

David Williamson, in case you’ve been living in a yurt in Turkey since the 70s, is our most prolific playwright, supposedly “retired” in 2005 (Influence would have been his final work!), but in stubborn objection to ill health and with the help of modern medicine, a theme that features prominently in the 2011 work At Any Cost, Williamson has continued to chronicle our country’s social and political history, providing plum roles for Australian actors and consistently offering on a silver platter, script after script to make any director’s mouth water with the rich potential of each dish. Williamson’s list of plays reads like a degustation menu. See below.

With Managing Carmen already under option, I can’t help but wonder who will make the movie that chronicles David Williamson’s extraordinary life and career? But before we get ahead of ourselves let me tell you about the play.


Wait. You have booked your tickets now, haven’t you? Okay. Just checking. You know I don’t want you to miss this one.

Tim Dashwood, sculpted, taut and terrific in the role, is Brent Lyall, the extraordinarily talented two-time Brownlow Medal winning 23-year old AFL star player and…cross-dresser. His addiction is “sufficiently unusual for him and his manager and the rest of the team to be terrified if the word gets out” (David Williamson, interviewed by Frank Hatherley for Stage Whispers). Dashwood proves in this role that he is equally at home in heels or football boots. I hope he feels he can share at some stage his recent training program, diet and supplement intake. Every husband needs to know. Not necessarily the heel practicing (well, they’ve all had a go at that, haven’t they? Well, haven’t they?!), but definitely the hard-core training to get in peak physical condition. Just saying. Dashwood’s super confident, relaxed, sexy and stylish performance as Brent-as-Carmen (that’s Carmen Getme) is a much better pitch for a role in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert than any of those seen on I Will Survive and I won’t be at all surprised if his next offer comes from the producers of a revival (the show closed on Broadway in June). Well, you know Dashwood’s also a singer, right? And he can dance! In heels! On a revolving, glossy, black tiled floor! While it struck me that perhaps his monotone was a bit much at first, I realised almost within the same instant that I HAVE HEARD ELITE SPORTSMAN SPEAK THIS WAY. Also, many, many teenaged boys. We’ll just stop for a moment to acknowledge that this play is for all ages and all sorts. I hope that many, many men and women, of all ages, can bring themselves to turn off the TV, get up off the lounge and get to this show. Williamson writes not just for the “elite” baby-boomer theatregoers but also for everyone now. In fact, I’m in awe of the man’s research skills and application of contemporary Australian language to give us beautifully drawn characters that we feel we already know.

Claire Lovering is Jessica Giordano, the corporate confidence boosting, image-grooming psychologist and eventual love interest (no spoiler there, it’s pretty obvious from the outset and you’re in for a delightful surprise when that deal is sealed with a kiss! A little bit of Luhrmann creeping in there. I almost expected to hear the moon singing! It’s a brave ending and I love it!). Lovering’s finest moment is her penultimate one, but only because we go with her, every step of the way, on her journey to that point.

Anna McGahan Managing Carmen

Anna McGahan, who plays the girlfriend, paid to pose by Lyall’s side for the paps by his ruthless, money-hungry manager, Rohan Swift (John Batchelor), totes pulls off saying “totes” and does so while adopting that odd WAGS cum Orange County Housewife accent that we hear on the red carpet when one of the hotter halves has been asked which designer she is wearing and which often indicates a jet-setting vaporous existence amongst those who have more money than (fashion) sense. Of course I’m over-generalising… Anyway, I love the way McGahan changes sides; the alliance between she and Carmen is completely genuine and their beautifully girly BFF behaviour – most of all their outrageous drunken behaviour – has us in stitches. It’s a very funny play and Wesley Enoch’s deft hand and his fearless, fun approach in directing it is obvious.

John Batchelor is, strangely, halfway to being endearing as Swift; we almost believe that he cares a little bit about his client’s wellbeing…until we see time and time again that he doesn’t! We wonder at first at his groovy moves and frustrated antics and vocals (they come across at first as a little too OTT), but because they’re funny they’re easily forgiven and as the character settles they begin to make sense. I won’t spoil the opening for you. Suffice to say, from the outset, Batchelor is the Basil Fawlty of this farce, skilfully, relentlessly driving the action and flawless Williamson brand of comedy as Enoch sees it.

In fact, it takes a little while to accept that we’re in the middle of a modern-day farce. As Kate Foy observed during interval, instead of doors opening and closing all over the place, we have an eleven metre revolve, which helps keep the action fast and funny, as the actors fall over furniture to get to their next scene. It sounds clumsy but it’s not; it’s beautifully choreographed. While we’re on it, the set almost steals the show; it’s truly gasp-worthy. Designed by Richard Roberts (assisted by Isobel Hutton), the use of this stunning black floored revolve in this space is a coup for Queensland Theatre Company and QPAC’s Playhouse. I love it and I’d love to see more of it. Lit by Black Swan’s Trent Suidgeest, we feel at home in Lyall’s apartment, Swift’s office, a bar, a nightclub and out in the open by the sea, with the help of projected images of clouds and the sounds of a seascape (Sound Designer Tony Brumpton). The only let down on opening night was that the first visual failed to appear on the television screen in Swift’s office, however, that’s an easy fix. Not so easy, now that the season has begun, would be to ask a favour of Eddie McGuire and have The Footy Show excerpts pre-filmed. This extra effort, rather than playing the audio recorded by the actors over random mismatched footage, would make this production faultless. (Audio Visual Designer Declan McMonagle). Also, I appeared to be overdressed in an old LBD and new, flat Siren Bolly shoes, however, that’s just a note to self. I am yet to work out the dress code for Brisbane opening nights. Clearly, so are others. What do you wear to opening nights? Do you dress thematically? I’d like to know. The Brisbane theatre scene is evolving and it feels like it’s time to give the social photographers something special to shoot!

Managing Carmen is stylish, slickly designed and superbly written, directed and performed. It places the spotlight unforgivingly over our obsession with celebrity and the insane pursuit of sponsorship and monetary gain over recognition and reward for true talent in just about every arena. Challenging our levels of tolerance, understanding and acceptance of difference in an entertaining, energetic farce, Wesley Enoch’s production of David Williamson’s Managing Carmen is a true blue theatrical triumph.

Anna McGahan & Tim Dashwood Managing Carmen

David Williamson – list of plays

The Indecent Exposure of Anthony East (1968)

You’ve Got to Get on Jack (1970)

The Coming of Stork (1970)

The Removalists (1971)

Don’s Party (1971)

Jugglers Three (1972)

What If You Died Tomorrow? (1973)

The Department (1975)

A Handful of Friends (1976)

The Club (1977)

Travelling North (1979)

Celluloid Heroes (1980)

The Perfectionist (1982)

Sons of Cain (1985)

Emerald City (1987)

Top Silk (1989)

Siren (1990)

Money and Friends (1991)

Brilliant Lies (1993)

Sanctuary (1994)

Dead White Males (1995)

Heretic (1996)

Third World Blues (1997, An Adaptation Of Jugglers Three)

After The Ball (1997)

Corporate Vibes (1999)

Face to Face (2000)

The Great Man (2000)

Up for Grabs (2001)

A Conversation (2001)

Charitable Intent (2001)

Soulmates (2002)

Flatfoot (2003)

Birthrights (2003)

Amigos (2004)

Operator (2005)

Influence (2005)

Lotte’s Gift (2007) – also known as Strings Under My Fingers

Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot (2008)

Let The Sunshine[4] (2009)

Don Parties On (2011)

At Any Cost? (2011)

Nothing Personal (2011)

When Dad Married Fury (2011)

Managing Carmen (2012)

Managing Carmen moves to Black Swan State Theatre Company’s Heath Ledger Theatre 10th November – 2nd December and, with an entirely different cast, directed by Mark Kilmurry, Ensemble Theatre presents their production of Managing Carmen 6th December – January 25th.

A live simulcast of the world premiere co-production from the Black Swan Theatre Company (Perth) with Queensland Theatre Company will be presented on 30th November in the Cummins Theatre, WA.

David Williamson’s MANAGING CARMEN is a “laugh-out-loud comedy for anyone who likes who likes football or designer dresses and a crackling funny dissection of stereotypes in sport. Brent is a country boy turned footy star: captain of his AFL team, king of product-endorsements, with a model girlfriend and ruthless sports manager. But Brent’s hiding one little thing that could ruin his career and end the advertising money: his passion for cross-dressing….”

Cast includes: John Batchelor, Timothy Dashwood, Claire Lovering, Anna McGahan, and Greg McNeil

Directed by Wesley Enoch

***This live simulcast event is FREE***

Friday, 30 November at 730pm
the Cummins Theatre
31 Bates Street
Merredin, Western Australia