Village Du Cirque 2012 At Pelouse De Reuilly, Paris

This year, Village Du Cirque in Pelouse de Reuilly, Paris, hosted the 8th annual edition of its contemporary-circus festival. For five weeks betweem Oct. 5 and Nov 4, the public had a chance to see 40 performances by 10 different circus and theater companies.

Village Du Cirque 2012 resembled Letní Letná in Prague. A parking area in the middle of a large park was occupied by circus tents and caravans of both modern and traditional shapes, there were children, dogs and adults roaming around and the overall atmosphere was very friendly.

The largest and possibly most attractive performance was offered by the CirkVOST aerial-acrobatics group at the large circus tent, where they comfortably seated, or rather laid down, their audience on cots, so that nobody would hurt their necks from constantly looking up. The hour-long Epicycle show could be roughly compared to a comic book or an animated film due to stylized costumes in the shades of grayish green, bodies flying in the air and copious amounts of metal. All action took place high in the air in a huge ring composed of two blocks, each 13.5 meters in diameter just below the roof of the tent to an accompaniment of electro-acoustic music. Eight acrobats stunned the audience with numbers flowing in a seamless sequence. Each sequence picked up where the previous one left creating dramatic circles and cycles with gravity-defying lightness while the audience felt the massive weight of the complex metal construction with all its cables and cogwheels.

This year’s program included a performance by an unusual duo dubbed Les Cousins specializing in clown acts and street performances. Their Plein Tube! show was penned by the playful clowns Julot and René and takes place in a nighttime-street atmosphere illuminated by what seems like car headlights. The performers worked magic with large hoops which they turned into steering wheels and various other objects to a soundtrack composed of ordinary city sounds, such as police sirens, radio broadcasts, etc.

However, the story I found most intriguing was that of little Jacqueline in Jacqueline Sur La Terre by La Compagnie De La Grande Echelle. This production by the Belgian duo of Marie-Elisabeth Corent and Sébastien Bruas was performed in a shortened version as a night show for customers of the café tent. This popular venue was a large tent with tables and benches along its sides and a rope hanging from the ceiling thoughtfully located with regard to the safety of spectators seated on the floor. Even these makeshift conditions didn’t diminish the excellent quality of the performance and the great impression it made.

Jacqueline Sur La Terre begins with a man and a woman in civilian clothing coming on stage an explaining the history of the creation of the performance which deals with death and mortality to the audience. Then the two actors look for a volunteer from the audience whom they could give a Tamil script for the show to so that the volunteer could prompt them in case they forget their lines. Anything serious the two performers say is immediately followed by a clown gag or at least undermined with sarcasm. A volunteer from the audience takes the Tamil script and the actors disappear behind a screen. A moment later, the woman emerges dressed in black tails, black stockings and a bowler hat and starts explaining that she is supposed to bring a news to a ten -year-old girl named Jacqueline. The girl’s mother (enacted by Marie-Elisabeth Corent) says: “You daddy has gone to heaven to be with Our Lord.” Jacqueline (performed by Sébastien Bruas) is upset, refuses to believe or to even listen to the news and goes to climb the tallest tree around convinced she could help her daddy come down from Heaven – he was too young to die!

Sébastien Bruas is a congenial, tall and muscular aerial acrobat but also a man, so his costume of a female dress over black trousers has a comical effect which gets the audience laughing. However, his acting is free of any signs of parody and the spectator actually believe his portrayal of Jacqueline. Upon hearing the tragic news, the girl (albeit a man) starts energetically rocking on a rope swing and as the music starts rocking as well, she (he) climbs a rope to the top of the imaginary tree.

For the most of the show, Marie-Elisabeth Corent is the clown. Each time she enters the stage, she appears as a different character adroitly portrayed not only by the means of a new costume but complete with a new voice, posture, gestures and movement. Her characters often turn to the audience as she gracefully switches from being Jacqueline’s uncle to her friend, to an Indian dancer, to the Death and to a firefighter while Jacqueline (Bruas) is refusing to climb down and uses the rope to present incredible acrobatic stunts while hanging by just a leg, just a hand or standing on the rope parallel to the ground. Within instants, the audience goes from laughing to holding its breath and then to an awed admiration of gravity-defying aerial acrobatics and surprises keep coming until the very end of the show. There is water flowing from the ceiling. Bruas is slowly descending, hanging upside down, then climbs up again and makes another drop, each one different than the previous, until he wraps the rope around himself only to let go of it, make an abrupt free fall towards the ground and remain hanging with the rope tight around his thigh just above the floor. The acrobat is drenched and performs these fascinating moves to the sound of nostalgic piano music.

The simple and powerful story of a girl who doesn’t understand why her daddy has died touched all spectators regardless of their age. The production very sensitively and at the same time effectively mixed clowning and aerial acrobatics to create a world between the Earth and Heaven, death and love, and pain and laughter with much hope included.

Hana Strejčková

CirkVOST: Epicycle – Directed By: CirkVOST and JP Zaccarini; Music: Antonin Chaplain and Nicolas Farge; performers: Benoît Belleville, Melissa Colello, David Guillouart, Renald Musacchia, Jean Pellegrini, Sara Sanqvist, Cécile Yvinec

Les Cousins: Plein tube! – Written and Performed By: Julot a René

La compagnie de la Grande Echelle: Jacqueline sur la terre – Written By: Marie-Elisabeth Corent; Directed By: Laurent Dubost; Performers: Marie-Elisabeth Corent and Sébastien Bruas

Photo: Hana Strejčková