La Terrasse
1 October 2018

Review. La dernière saison La Villette / Written and directed by Bernard Kudlak

Critique / La dernière saison | La Terrasse (presse_lds) {PDF}The final show by the legendary Cirque Plume, La dernière saison carries with it an important page in the evolution of circus arts.

La dernière saison is not a farewell show, nor is it a best-of featuring Cirque Plume’s most popular acts. Rather, it is a real creation: alive, inventive, still and all carrying a certain nostalgia. Over the course of forty years, Cirque Plume has become a major company with worldwide success. Its trademark, quickly stamped "nouveau cirque": offer shows in which circus arts are at the service of poetic creation. On stage, in a black box theatre rather than in a circus ring, with a frontal stage allowing for elaborate, skillful plays on lighting developed in line with circus acts. Surprising appearances and magical, moving scenes. Circus tricks incorporated into a visual myriad connected to live music leading or accompanying each scene, passing through a wide range of atmospheres. Reconciling a popular dimension with artistic rigor, Cirque Plume has built up a loyal and diverse following. Eloquently, this is its eleventh hour, and its eleventh time at La Villette since it began. Its faithful audience responded by being present for the opening tonight, a joyous premiere: a premiere about endings, without ceding to the sadness of farewells.

Everything glides along from here

It’s autumn, before winter. Fallen leaves fly above the stage as the audience filters in. A plastic bag becomes part of a dance. Bernard Kudlak conceived the show based around the Jura Mountains, which are familiar to him, and around Nature, which he would like to preserve, as well as around beauty. The scenes range from a furious sea to snowy mountains, from animals of the savannah to those of a fantastical bestiary. We drift, we stray. Everything glides along from here.

Some common themes: aging and pot-bellied men, firmly at ease in being ridiculous, after a manhood of another life. The girl, who are younger — some of them acrobats on the ground, one on the wire, another on the aerial hoop, one on the Chinese pole with a marvelous ease, another an incredible contortionist — laugh at the antics of these old dogs. In this somewhat sweet atmosphere, the choreographies are similar and the alternation of long scenes with more amusing interludes is somewhat monotonous. But let’s not wear down the monument any more. Perpetuating a troupe spirit, musicians and circus performers intermingle freely as do actors performing the same piece. With a joyous dignity, La dernière saison gives us memorable findings, offering a fitting, beautiful end to the book of memories. During the final bows, the community of spectators rose to their feet, eyes sparkling with images and with gratitude. Before them stood the gamble of a sensitive and poetic circus that still has some beautiful years ahead of it.

Eric Demey