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Quebec’s Striking Images

Quebec’s Striking Images

While the world went to London this summer, contrarian that I am, I went decidedly in another direction: Ville de Québec. Graced with more Old World charm than almost anywhere outside of Florence, this jewel of a city now gets my vote for most creative use of urban wasteland as well.

On any given night in the summer in Quebec City, you can experience top-draw street performers, freeform reenactments of historical events by costumed actors, an outdoor showcase by Cirque du Soleil, plus a striking imagistic rendering of Quebec’s 400-year history projected across eighty-one grain silos by multi-media genius Robert LePage. And all for free.

Giants on stilts vie with flying pixies and stunt drivers on motorcycles.

While I tend to think of Le Cirque as Disneyland for adults who refuse to grow up, there is something breathtaking watching acrobats perform beneath an inner-city expressway surrounded by impromptu amphitheatre seating. Here, giants on stilts vie with flying pixies and stunt drivers on motorcycles in Les Chemins invisbles (“Invisible Paths”.)

The show is a kind of Alice In Wonderland redux, featuring a child’s dreams of beauty and wonder. The outdoor staging gives a nod to Robert Wilson’s original production of Einstein on the Beach, where opaque story “blocks” come alive in inventive ways.

The eighty-one grain silos that form the backdrop of Lepage’s aptly named “Image Mill” (Le Moulin á images) constitute the world’s largest projection screen. Six hundred meters wide by thirty meters high—or the equivalent of 25 IMAX screens—the show originated in 2008 with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec. It’s been a summertime mainstay ever since.

This impressionistic work dazzles as history marches past in panoramic view.

Hundreds come nightly to view the images, seating themselves on the grass of the old market to watch the show unfold across the marina, while 300 loudspeakers broadcast a soundtrack.

Neither a film nor a factual document, this impressionistic work dazzles as history marches past in panoramic view: deals with natives, the burning of forts, Quebec celebrities and politicians, plus rows of silos turning from cigarettes into bullets, book spines into piano keys. Plans are in hand to turn the work into a 3D spectacle next year.

The current fascination for live multi-media work may not have been LePage’s invention alone, but with his Quebec-based company, Ex Machina, he has done more than almost anyone to expand its frontiers in the past quarter-century. And now with Le Cirque added to the mix, it’s one of the best summertime destinations in the world.


Jeffrey Round is a writer of contemporary fiction. His first two books, A Cage of Bones and The P-town Murders, were listed on AfterElton’s Top 100 Gay Books. His most recent Dundurn title is Lake On The Mountain, a literary-thriller. He is also author of the comedic Bradford Fairfax mystery series, which has been described as “a cross between Oscar Wilde and Agatha Christie.”

To learn more about Jeffrey, visit his website:

photo credit: eburriel

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