Interview with Bernard Kudlak
By Isabelle Labarre, in Ouest France (October 2010)

Cirque Plume, a tale of a band of utopians
The company has set up the big top in Rezé for three weeks of shows. Interview with its founder, Bernard Kudlak, turned circus performer with words.

It’s raining in Rezé. The wind is whirling under the yellow tarpaulin of the big top, which has been erected in the square known as place du Pays-de-Retz, in the centre of the Château part of town. There are about ten people standing under the lanterns around Bernard Kudlak. The founder of Cirque Plume has come to Rezé for the fourth time, and between now and 14 November some 21,000 spectators will come to see his latest show, "L’Atelier du peintre" (’The Artist’s Studio’). A few hours away from the third performance, the circus performer-cum-researcher is answering questions quoting Pierre Bourdieu, and is describing how the show came to be ’a touch clever but watchable by everyone’.

Why painting? ’Twenty five years ago, I was undecided whether to join the circus or paint. I’ve always been into visual arts and art history. When I was designing the show, I went back to painting.’
As a child, Bernard Kudlak never went to the circus.
’I was the son of a pleb, my father worked for Peugeot, and it wasn’t for us. The first time I did go, it was in Guérande. I was 23, and I was a clog-maker in La Turballe. But what really opened my eyes was when I saw Andrei Roublev, by Tarkovski. I was completely bowled over by that film.’

He went to the same school as Jean Jaurès and Victor Hugo, where he ’couldn’t be one of the exploiters but had the freedom to explore’, but Bernard Kudlak didn’t stay to study chemistry for very long. In 1984, the man from Franche-Comté founded Cirque Plume. Utopia beneath the big top. ’Our heritage was Shoah, the First World War, Vietnam. What could we do to take us away from all that? We were a band of strolling players, a troop of performing artists, rather than circus performers in the traditional sense. I was suffering from class-consciousness, obsessed with the idea of having brains and brawn side by side under the big top.’

Twenty six years later, Plume isn’t looking jaded. ·’We’ve made it so far because we are still talking to each other. Another reason we are still together is because we are country folk. We live in the countryside. I’ve got my vegetable garden and my technical manager has a vineyard. We don’t go to parties.’ They have lasted because they bring us all together, says Marie, age 59. She met Bernard Kudlak for the first time under the big top on Saturday morning. ·’Nowadays, it’s so hard to get people involved in anything apart from fear. When you see Cirque Plume, you don’t just see a show. And there’s no better time than today to go and see for yourself.’