There are some huge celebrities here to celebrate Montreal’s 375th birthday, and I really mean huge.
The Giants are in town for the weekend. Not the football team. The Giants of the Royal De Luxe company are marionettes from France. There are three of them: The Sea Diver which is the largest, a Little Girl, which is the diver’s niece, and her dog. This is their first appearance in Canada.
It takes a lot of people to manipulate them and watching them work is as fascinating as the marionettes themselves.
The most spectacular is the Sea Diver. It’s really gigantic. When I arrived downtown to watch them wake up, it seemed like half the city was already there. While the Little Girl and her dog napped under an umbrella on St. Catherine Street, the diver was a block away taking a little siesta at Place des Festivals beneath the crane that is used to manipulate his limbs. They were both snoring lightly.
The crowd cheered and applauded when the performers arrived. They quickly climbed the crane and the sleeping giant woke up. He lifted his head and looked around at the crowd sleepily. It looked so natural, I thought he was going to yawn.
Then they put on his helmet. That was amazing. Even with his helmet on, his head still turned from side to side, as if he was watching the performers while they worked.
Then he got up.
And walked down the street, heading to Old Montreal.
It takes a team of performers to make him walk. I think there were eight of them for each leg. Two of them swing out on a rope/pulley to lift a leg, lower themselves to the ground, hand it to the next team of two and they run to the back and get in line to do it again. Other teams move the head and arms. A live band in another truck follows them, playing music to help them keep the rhythm.
When they stopped at the gates to Chinatown on St. Laurent which aren’t high enough for the diver to walk through, I wondered what they were going to do. A couple of performers slid down a rope and made some adjustments to the hooks around his helmet.
Then while the band played the iconic tune from James Bond movies, another crane lifted the diver up and over the gates.
The pace of the marionette is not slow. A large number of volunteers and police on bikes and in cars have to move quickly to keep the crowd back. I mean, you wouldn’t want to get stomped on by one of its boots.
When they got to the other gate, they lifted him up again and continued on to Old Montreal.