Interview with Bernard Kudlak
By Eric Guillaud, in France 3 Pays de la Loire (5 April 2014)
Rezé : Meeting with Bernard Kudlak, co-founder of the Cirque Plume (Plume Circuit)
A few hours before the start of the performance of the Cirque Plume in Rezé, one of its founders, Bernard Kudlak, received us under the enormous marquee to share, as he aptly describes the shows, a moment of eternity. Interview!
From now until 30 April 22,000 people in Rezé will discover the new show from the Cirque Plume entitled "Tempus Fugit? The ballad on the lost path”. That is a big audience, but the Cirque Plume, in its thirty years of existence, has not only been able to build up a reputation in the world of the live show, but also to initiate and support the renewal of an art, the circus.
Can you describe this new show in just a few words?
Bernard Kudlak. Tempus Fugit has been specially conceived to celebrate 30 years of the Cirque Plume. It was exactly 30 years ago, in April 1984, that we submitted to the prefecture the name of the Cirque Plume association. That same year we went on our first tour and even at that time we performed in the area of Batz-sur-Mer. That was in July 1985. To return to the show, the idea was base our work on past times and to offer a kind of quintessential Plume with one or two nuggets of what we had done. This show takes people right back to the true Plume spirit through the work of today’s artistes. And, what is also important to us, is that it is precisely these artistes, hired for the show, were all born after the Cirque Plume was created. This is the first time this has happened and it is a big jump to make in a career.
What will be able to see and hear in the show?
B.K. One extremely sad note is that the composer of the music for Cirque Plume died two years ago. Tempus was created one year after this event and it was Benoît Schick, who was his stand-in, t, who composed such magnificent music which was at the same time different from, and yet followed on seamlessly from Robert’s music. Quite astonishing! So all these elements can be found in the show, a little sadness, nostalgia perhaps, but also, as usual, laughter, plenty of laughter and poetry. The spirit of the Cirque Plume lives on, which is the sharing, the time, we always said that we were working in the present. The Cirque Plume is a show of the moment, and the moment is timeless, so we are inviting people to pass a moment of timelessness with us.
You have just celebrated 30 years in the business, would you have ever imagined this when you started?
B.K. This is quite surprising because there was no indication that the circus would experience a revival or even get to this point, yet when I told my classmates in January 1984 that we were going to set up a circus and buy caravans I confided in them that in ten years time we would be one of the most prosperous new circuses in Europe. I knew it would work, I was convinced of it. I knew that we had unlocked a treasure trove, that there were magnificent things waiting to be developed in the circus world. That was what we had to do, this is who we were.
In fact, you could not know that the circus would enjoy a revival, and it is you who have been the reason for this revival...
B.K. Yes, you are right. We set up a circus without a ring, without actually forming a circus, in fact with very little, without any training. I think it came from somewhere else, from literature, from Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Molière, Henry Miller, Captain Fracas, from the theatre with Brecht, the visual arts and politics. We also started out with the idea of finding a different path from that offered to us at the time, sunlit if possible. The circus was ideal for that purpose, it was popular, yet political. Why should art be performed solely for the bourgeois, for those who have rings, those who have been good at school? Here, at the Cirque Plume, we receive the whole world. These were somewhat egalitarian desires, a little like Jean Vilar. And then we dreamed of walking the byways..
Yesterday you dreamed of being on the fringe, but today you are an institution?
B.K. Yes .. except that we are not an institution in the financial sense because we are 87% self-financed. And from the security point of view we are not an institution either, the vulnerability is still there! But we have had generations of loyal fans who still come to see us with their children, their adolescents. We have all age groups, all social classes, and that was the gamble 30 years ago. And that gamble has paid off! Because the circus allows that. This would have been more difficult to achieve with the theatre. I really do believe that the circus shares the subconscious. That is to say, at the circus there is a fall. We all share fear, laughter, immediate emotions. And the aggregate subconscious in old literature is the same as that of a female bus driver or bricklayer. Or perhaps the same as the subconscious of the people who painted in the Lascaux caves.The circus is a place where we were interested in sharing our common human condition, finding an artistic language that was as far from the massacres and horrors of the 20th century as possible. It was as if an injunction had been imposed: “we could not do good, avoid totalitarianism, wars, so do something else”. In any case it was use who found a way of sharing emotions, beauty, and also joy ….
In 30 years the French company has nevertheless evolved. And is the same kind of show created today as it was yesterday?
B.K. Actually .. yes.
Why? Is not the circus ageless?
B.K. No, the circus is not ageless, but it is a history of thought. What I mean is that for me fashion is a snapshot in time. Leopardi believed that fashion was the mother of death. If you the Iliad today, the voice that comes out of it is intact, it is a whole modernity. The aspiration of the living is to be aloof, elsewhere, and in this respect fashion is all about being better than the others. For me there is no such thing as progress in art. You enter the caves of Chauvet or Lascaux and you find everything there, all the painting of the 20th century, even Miro can be found in the corner. Nothing has changed in 40,000 years. Of course society is not the same, but fundamentally what we share with people is an ageless time and for me that is still relevant.
And this is what drives you?
B.K. What has driven me is the sharing, and probably the fact that I have found, a place which still belongs to culture and which it is possible to share with people who have been in the wrong place, socially, to benefit properly from this culture. What is so precious to me is that everyone can some to the same place at the same time, keeping things to yourself is a detestable thing. Everyone can come to the Cirque Plume.
Twenty years ago today would you have started up the same way?
B.K. Probably not. 30 years ago you went into the circus because you wanted to be somewhere else. Today the circus is an institution. I would therefore certainly be looking for another place, a different art.
Today what does the new circus represent to you?
B.K. Learning the arts of the circus has developed everywhere and has resulted in the emergence of a lot of circus companies, many different practices, marquees, more formality or more elitist forms as well. That it is the magic of the circus. But there is also a danger. Because the circus is now part of our culture, it may be called upon to do what is already known, not what is not known. So perhaps the new circus might today do something which our culture does not expect it to do!
What should we wish for your circus in the next 30 years?
B.K. To grow old gracefully would be the natural response. What I can tell you is that we will end our adventure, and end it well! That I mean is that the next show will be the last. It will enable us to say goodbye to everyone, and afterwards, we shall see.. And if people come to whisper in our ear, we might perhaps listen to them. We have been on a fantastic adventure, we have imparted to a lot of young people a taste for the art, who in turn will pass this on to others. The chain is unbroken… I want a company such as ours to go on forever because it is the only way to bring everyone together. I have thought a lot about broadcasting it, and I think we have been preparing for this from the beginning. By doing so we will broadcast, it will make people want to come and see it, and it will give pleasure …
So could the Cirque Plume embark upon another adventure?
B.K. One adventure will end, another will follow. But it is not Pinder, we will have no truck with that. And between Tempus and the next show this will still take us to around 2020/2021...
Thank you Bernard Kudlak.