arts de la piste
2 January 2000

Cirque Plume-Mélanges
a homeless angel

Mike Sens

The arrival of an angel clown, who looks about him with never a critical word, inspires real hope. Whether you are a child, hungry for dreams, or an adult eager to clean the muck of the rear-view mirror of his mind, the Cirque Plume succeeds in being a show for the general public (300,000 spectators per creation) without this being detrimental to artistic quality. MÉLANGES accentuates the hybrid nature of the Plume approach, which largely prefers the dialectic of a false rabbit which smokes to the ancestral ritual of the lion-tamer. Equipped with wings and a good dose of daring, they come down into the arena, playing around with inherited values and continuity. It is Fellini and Chagall who are the source of their inspiration rather than the reality of the traditional circus.

With maybe one exception: the notion of present time. Here we’re not dealing with narrative, they don’t tell a story. But stories. Time is sometimes fictive, but most of the time it is the real time of the trapeze artist or of a Plume who slowly descends the hanging straps creating a link with another act. The splitting up of the various plots and the brilliance of the visual tricks form a universal dramatic art, not being founded on the word, which in any case, foments trouble. To speak to the audience or to show something to audience, that is the question. In spite of its subtle situational poetry, the Cirque Plume remains an affair of the exploit, of physical performances which leaves us in no doubt that we are at the circus, and not in an extra-mural theatre. Their Opéra Plume excels in the art of transition. How to get from one act to another, in this suspended moment, this "in-between time", is for the Cirque Plume the most imaginative moment. Playing the electric guitar on a trampoline; climbing a shadow ladder; a juggler with clothes-pegs on his ears; an angel on roller-skates, bringing someone back to life by hooting like an owl; a musician taking to the air on a double bass; a concierge who drinks a glass of red wine created by a moving spotlight; tap-dancing on the tightrope; a symphony on cell phones - a kaleidoscope of little magical moments fixes itself in the spectator’s memory. In nature as in art, the richest areas are where things meet; where two ecosystems touch. Respect for identity is recognized. The new style ring-master here is a kind-hearted landlord who has the right to do things of a sensitive sort: "This evening, during the show, I was thinking about Yugoslavia in the wings". But after Mad Max and chain-saws, the times are in keeping with him. The domination of an animal by a man, the glorification of courage, of strength and youth - values which are almost totalitarian gave birth to the circus, didn’t they? In the present day context of the performing arts of the circus, a feather becomes a metaphor pregnant with meaning, as capable of entertaining as any herd of elephants.