A Boat Trip Gone Good

The Italian MagdaClan theater company introduced itself to the Czech audience at the Petynka public pool from Sep. 21 to Sep. 23. Director Roberto Magro under the artistic supervision of Petr Forman created a performance entitled Era – Solo Pour Un Clown (Era – A Solo For One Clown).

MagdaClan goes somewhat against the current. Its members are former schoolmates from the Scuala di Circo Flic in Tourin, Italy, currently, they live and work in Belkgium and they don’t settle for merely amazing the audience with the skills they have perfected in years of training. They are young and they have many questions which they enjoy asking both themselves and the audience: What are you passionate about? What are the three most important things in life to you? Do you think that money can make you happy? These are some of the questions MagdaClan asks its audiences as they gather in front of the blue circus tent before being let inside accompanied by the explanations that the performers want to know what kind of people come to see their show.

The individual numbers are connected by the stories of a ship captain and his sailors. Their adventures involve ship masts, booze, lamps rocking on a turbulent sea and land being sighted in a distance. As the authors of the show remark, Era doesn’t intend to tell a single coherent story. Rather, it is a poetic collection of short adventures told with the wild energy of contemporary circus.

Customarily, the stages of contemporary circus don’t sport many decorations and the acrobats use their nimble bodies and various props instead. However, Era is an exception. In the back of the stage, there are small houses with roofs sturdy enough to support a running person, fabric walls soft enough to an acrobat to quickly slip inside and clear the stage for the next number. Next to these elaborate multi purpose houses, there is one more edifice with angular windows and a door in the shape of an upturned coffin as a reminder of a tragic event which opens the show and which is better left undisclosed. The acrobats use the windows for many purposes, such as to observe the action on the stage with five heads peeking out or to play hide and seek with the drunken sailor’s bottle of booze which his fellow sailors take away from him and stick out of the different windows to tease its owner. A sea ship needs ropes. the rope of this particular ship is used by the only female crew member Erika Bettin to exhibit her art. Her petite, slender and nimble body is at home not only on the rope but – as the audience discovers later – also in the air doing daring somersaults. Supported by many strong male shoulders she jumps and somersaults over her fellow acrobats.

The various acrobatic numbers are accompanied by soft music reminiscent of Icelandic melodies as performed, e. g., by Sigur Rós. However, the authors of the original soundtrack of Era (Simon Thierrée, Alejandro Petrasso, Loran Delforges, Benjamin Clement) gave more prominence to the piano, violin and other accoustic instruments. Era is mostly an intimate performance and the soundtrack was conducive to its atmosphere.

One female spectator was literally pulled into the world of ship ropes and morning fogs by the performers. The fairytale ship was also conquered by the civilization represented by a confused and bespectacled IT engineer riding on stage on an office chair who started asking the representative of the audience various questions and writing down her answers while skilfully juggling with his notebook. It seemed that the spectator chosen to come on stage was chosen deliberately based on her answer to one of the questions asked in front of the tent before the performance, so the IT man could be sure her responses would make the audience laugh. If an answer wasn’t funny enough, the interrogator made up for it by recording it in his notebook even more furiously than usual mimicking Jack Sparrow of The Pirates Of The Caribbean. Eventually, other crew member join the IT engineer and the spectator on stage and take her through their fairytale world back to her seat. The interview was conducted in English, but the performers pleasantly surprised the audience with short remarks in Czech.

One of the highlights of the evening came with the number of the drunken sailer on a unicycle. He started by riding furiously close to the audience and his inebriation was so convincing that it was hard to believe he wouldn’t fall off the unicycle. However, Giorgio Bertolotti was completely in charge of his transport drinking from his bottle while presenting various ways of riding the one wheeler including a mode in which he dispensed with the pedals and drove the wheel directly by moving the tire with his sneakers. The rampaging drunken sailor was discovered by his colleagues who arrived using large metallic ladders as an elevated pathway for their captain to walk, climb, swing, slide on and jump from (doing somersaults as he was at it).

Alessandro Maida’s number on the balance ball delivered another exquisite and original experience. The scene started on a very poetic note, as the captain was waving goodbye at Maida stranded on the balance ball amidst a sea of artificial fog while resembling a castaway drifting to the open sea. After a while, Alessandro stood up on the balance ball, started doing barrel rolls on its top, running it along the edge of the stage barely missing the first-row spectators and finally stood up from a seated position with a pirouette.

The acrobats clearly expressed their views on money and happiness in a number, which started with bank notes – first a few Czech ones and then dollar bills – started fluttering down from the ceiling. The scene pokes fun on people who greedily take money from others and those who are blindly obsessed with it. The performers illustrated the foolishness of such attitudes by pecking on the descending banknotes with the jerky moves and bucking sounds of chicken for several minutes.

The very name of the production (Era) shows that MagdaClan enjoy seeking hidden meanings. In Italian, the word Era has 3 meanings – 1) “it was”, 2) “an era”, 3) and the Greek goddess Hera – and all these meanings are related to the past and to a moment which became history.

Hopefuly, the authors of Era – Solo Pour Un Clown will make history themselves as skilled acrobats and outstanding actors who like to ask questions and use the tools of contemporary circus to bare the vices of the society.

What are the 3 most important things in your life?

Kateřina Vlčková

MagdaClan: Era (Solo pour un clown) -Directed by: Roberto Magro; Artistic Supervisor: Petr Forman; Performers: Alessandro Maida, Giorgio Bertolotti, Erika Bettin , Daniele Sorisi,Giulio Lanfranco, Davide De Bardi, Roberto Magro; Music: Simon Thierrée, Alejandro Petrasso, Loran Delforges, Benjamin Clement; Stage and Costume Design: Lucie Lizen; Lighting Design: Joris De Bolle

Written based on the Czech premiere on Sep. 21, 2012 at Petynka In Prague.

photo: MagdaClan

added: Oct. 7, 2012

The author is a student of Drama Theory at the School of Philosophy of the Charles University in Prague. This article was written as a part of the “Writing On Contemporary Circus” educational project for students of journalism by Cirqueon.