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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Cirque du Soleil Saudi show to go on despite rift between Canada and the Kingdom

Not only is it happening, but the Riyadh show will be 'one of the largest productions ever created for a single performance by Cirque du Soleil' 

The cast of Cirque du Soleil's OVO Julia Tazie from Brazil, Jan Duther from Switzerland and Nathan Rivera-Drydak from Canada. The modern circus tours the world but is a Montreal-based company. Photo / Getty 

Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic rift with Canada may have affected the currency and maple syrup imports, but there’s at least one Canadian business untouched: Cirque du Soleil.

The Montreal-based troupe will perform a customised show for Saudi Arabia’s National Day on September 23 in Riyadh, Cirque du Soleil said in an emailed statement. The hour-long show will feature more than 80 artists - men and women - wearing 250 costumes on a 300-foot stage, "making it one of the largest productions ever created for a single performance by Cirque du Soleil," the company said.

The agreement for Cirque du Soleil to perform for Saudi National Day was announced in April, when Prince Mohammed was touring the U.S. to promote investment in the kingdom. The performance will be held at King Fahd International Stadium in front of a mixed gender audience, and will also be televised, Cirque du Soleil said.

Costumes have been specially designed to maintain respect for local traditions, so that they "meet both the expectations of Saudi Arabians and our own artistic standards," the company said.

It will be the first time Cirque du Soleil will perform in Saudi Arabia. Under 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom has been expanding its entertainment industry.

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Canada deteriorated after a tweet from Canada’s foreign ministry called for the release of detainees in Saudi Arabia. The government in Riyadh reacted swiftly to what it perceived as interference in its internal affairs, recalling its ambassador, banning the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh, freezing new business deals and suspending flights to Toronto.

Saudi Arabia also ordered the sale of Canadian assets and the return of Saudi students who were on scholarships at Canadian universities. So far, the spat has not been known to affect Canadian companies with existing business in Saudi Arabia.

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