Some facetious, loud mouthed yet inspired comics say that contemporary circus is nothing but "value-less circus" (in French the phrase "cirque comptant pour rien" - Circus that is worth nothing - sounds like "cirque contemporain" - Contemporary circus).
That might well be funny but it not exactly fair considering the energy that fizzes under the "new circus" big-tops and how they offer up such memorable moments.
But a few steps from the Memorial, outside the walls of the Caen theatre, there is a meadow where a curiously shaped, enormous and incongruous big-top has been pitched. The faded yellow of its canvas remind us that time passes. The trucks and vans carry no other distinguishing marks than the troupe’s logo. The ordinary tour caravans of the technicians and performers. Nothing special. All of this tells us that it is the show that counts above all here.
We are received with a buffet under the awnings. Uneven shadows direct the crowd into a serpentine queue.
The proportions and forms of the inside of the circus tent are unusual and strange. The stage and its technical areas take up about a third. A huge 1000 seat grand-stand faces the stage. With a spirit of adventure the public crowds on to the padded wooden benches, forgetting the habitual comfort of the National Theatres. Small-talk and civilities are exchanged… Silence...
"Oh time, suspend your flight".
Feathers fall one by one on to a piano hovering at ground level whilst a crystal globe swings like the pendulum of a clock.
Hoarse voices. Loud voices.
A bunch of smiling companions invade the stage under the spotlights as the music blares... And we are off for an hour and 40 minutes of pure enjoyment.
Writer and director, Bernard Kudlak, with the support of the older elements of his recently renewed team, has the talent to create that special universe that is such an important part of Plume’s identity. The stage is scattered with a motley collection objects, bits of iron, fabrics and other threads of meaning. Inventive workers orchestrate the scene changes. Shadow-play and special effects: the same poetic moments that we know so well from their preceding shows.
Music... Ah! What music! Benoit Schick’s original compositions oscillate, sometimes with tenderness, between jazz and pop. Almost all of the performers play instruments. Parade-ground brass, sensitive strings and eccentric instruments, all in complete osmosis with the show’s visual prowess.
Images. Delicious performances by female acrobats - both muscled and graceful - on the Chinese pole, tight-rope or trapeze. The dream-like undulations of immense sheets. Two stage-hands in smocks: the moving yet funny remarks of the older to the youngster. The violinist takes to the air in pursuit of his sheet-music. The sensual contact between Maxime Puthoud and his Cyr wheel.
Marie-Eve Dicaire’s balancing act using her feet and hands to bring voices from the glasses of a forest of vibraphones. And for the grand finale, the encore with its splendid choreography: a rosary of luminescent, ethereal globes writhing together in the darkness. Magic. Our mouths agape, it’s so beautiful.
This new show – their tenth, is called "Tempus fugit? a song for the lost road".
At first the phrase seems a bit enigmatic, until one understands the troupe’s origins in the Franc-Comté region of France, thirty years ago. Question: Moments escaping? Time passing? We can leave the latin-scholars to decide that. The press release uses the word play, in French: between Ballade (ballad, song) and balade (stroll), with the two Ls of "ballade" cleverly transformed into wings (ailes, pronounced "L"). In clock-making circles "le chemin perdu" (the lost road) refers to the silence between tick and tock. So is it ‘a song for the lost road’, ‘a stroll from tick to tock’, ‘a stroll along the lost road’ or ‘a song for the silence between tick and tock’?
Even with this in mind, the relationship between the title and the various set-pieces is not always clear. But the essentials are still there: a fun and enjoyable show which is by turns baroque, light-hearted, bizarre, tender, inventive and poetic
Fans of traditional circus will be frustrated.
However... Here we have 18 actors, musicians and stage-managers, all working together with humility and inventiveness to produce a show that brings joy to all.
No surprise that they all get a rousing ovation from a euphoric public.