Le Monde28 July 2017
Cirque Plume, star of the circus ring, presents its final show at Nuits de Fourvière
For Cirque Plume, a star of the arts of the circus ring, one must invent a new category: cirque d’atmosphère. Atmosphere? Yes: For the faces of these marvelously unforgettable artists of all ages, for the razzle-dazzle jazz music that makes acrobats levitate, for the dreamlike set with feathers falling like snow, for the brilliant feats, and for that way of speaking so directly to the audience.
The heavy weight troupe(with a name like Plume — English for feather —they really needed to compensate with something!), piloted by Bernard Kudlak since 1983,has been a long-time success at the Nuits de Fourvière Festival in Lyon. Open since June 30 at the Parc de Parilly, the troupe’s big top, which seats 980 spectators, has been drawing a full house every evening with La Dernière Saison. A total of nearly 30,000 spectators will have gathered in the tent’s stands between now and August 5. The mere brouhaha of the crowd before the show, the sounds of the four irons beating at the end, and between the two, the waves of laughter and warmth, all fill the air with a general good feeling of a rare nature. The community is decidedly taking to the circus.
La Dernière Saison has been billed as Cirque Plume’s final show. It resembles the final gift of a unique adventure in which the artists —a collective consisting of Brigitte Sepaser, Jean-Marie Jacquet, Hervé Canaud, Michèle Faivre, Jacques Marquès, Robert Miny, Pierre and Bernard Kudlak —are still present in the wings. Are we really to believe that this is the end of the end? There’s no apparent testamentary spirit in this assemblage of circus acts, theatrical sketches, clown antics, and impeccably set musical grand standing. That’s excepting, perhaps, a soft cry that’s not to be forgotten, whispered into our ears like a trade secret: the demand for freedom, the claim for a certain fidelity to oneself — and all this, crowned with humor.
Charm and virtuosity
The company, a main stay of nouveau cirque in the early 1980’s, with references like the Bread and Puppet Theater, the Living Theatre, Chagall, and Baudelaire, closely involves its performers in its perpetual inventiveness. Acrobatics is the beating heart of La Dernière Saison, with four young women teeming with charm and virtuosity— Natalie Good, Anaëlle Molinario, Amanda Righetti, and Analia Serenelli. Their astounding level of technique — in contortion, on Chinese pole, and on the double wire —is graced with a youthful ease that makes their tricks seem like letters arriving in the mail. In the company of the dancer Xavi Sanchez, a pas de deux emulates an intricate aerial interlacement. Undoubtedly, high-flying acrobatic numbers and other novel acts of prowess would have weighed on the show’s subject, which sometimes seems more theatrical than circus-like.
La Dernière Saison weaves together an eccentric fable on evolution from a gorilla (too present, but nonetheless perfectly incarnated by Cyril Casmèze, who knows how to neigh) to man. The animal that results—and the animal within us—romps about the circus ring. Since its beginnings, Plume has always elected not to present animals on stage, choosing instead to have them played by humans. The red-socked ostrich (Pierre Kudlak), who attaches eggs to his wicker basket as he gathers them, is the mascot of this piece, a work whose scenes unfold against a backdrop of the four seasons. Curtains fall, screens glide, and the band (of musicians, of sweepers, of creatures of the forest) rolls in and out, forming a string of comedy sketches, gags, and sounds.
In this last round along the circus ring, poetic swerves are the shortest paths to take off. The troupe veers towards laughter first and foremost, banking on slapstick comedy and lightness: to have fun without heed to heckling over profits and expectations; to have fun in order to conserve the spirit of childhood through pleasure and play. Set to the music of Benoît Schick, backed by six acolytes, Plume, cirque d’atmosphère, never pulls a long face, and smiles in the face of all odds.