CirqueClub /// “Creator of Worlds – Meeting the set designer of TORUK”

He is no magician, yet his craft is all about illusions.

Acting as the set designer for TORUK – The First Flight, Carl Fillion’s mission is to transform a stadium into a luxurious and poetic planet. If that was not difficult enough, he also needs to stay true to James Cameron’s colorful universe. He can always rely on his vivid imagination to overcome seemingly insuperable challenges.


Carl Fillion’s quiet talent is the creative force behind TOTEM’s enchantment, its giant turtle and its marsh on which images are projected. For the past three years, he has been working on Cirque du Soleil’s upcoming show TORUK – The First Flight, inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar movie. Creating a whole universe is no small feat.

“Set design is all about setting the stage for a performance” explains Fillion. “Beyond the set, it’s about the efficient use of space.”

In TORUK – The First Flight, Fillion’s main task is to bring Avatar’s enchanting universe to the stage, and work around all the technical limitations that come with stadium shows.

A giant home tree surrounded by screens, a suspended structure, a mysterious island and a green belt are only some of the stage props that he has created for this show.

Together with video projections, they help alleviate the lack of backstage space, hide objects and artists, and transform the stage while preserving the beauty and poetry of James Cameron’s otherworldly Avatar.

“The best sets are also the simplest,” says Fillion. “But the simplest are also the hardest to find. I often go to great lengths to simplify an idea, get to its essence. This is how we can achieve such a strong impact.”

In 1991, he received his degree in set design from the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Québec, and began his career in theater, before moving on to opera, then the circus. Having collaborated closely with Robert Lepage since 1994, he designed the stage props for a play, Elseneur, and for Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen opera. TOTEM was his first show with Cirque du Soleil, and TORUK – The First Flight is his most recent endeavor.

Being a set designer is not always easy. Writer’s block, unrelenting pressure and tough challenges can take a toll. Laughing, he confides that he sometimes dreams of moving to the Bahamas to become a fisherman. “I’ve often thought of leaving this tough, tiresome job for some other career,” admits Fillion. He adds, “However, I find it extremely rewarding to finally see the fruit of my labor at every step of the set design. It makes it all worth it.”

“I get such an adrenaline rush that once the show’s over, I want to start all over again the next day. Show business is a tough drug to kick.”

{ SOURCE: CirqueClub | }