La Vie
23 December 1999

Some bubbles for you from the Cirque Plume

Claire Moreau-Shirbon

"We wanted to bring poetry into everyday life..."
And they have! At the Cirque Plume funny angels fly astride double basses playing rock on bouzoukis. Eh... in the end... It’s best to go and see them.

"To be an angel, no need for a label. A managing director or a tramp can be an angel." Bonaventure Gacon knows what he’s talking about. Angel, that’s his job. The strapping fellow is bearded, with a fine head of hair, red. And an angel. "It’s quite right that an angel should not necessarily be kind and obliging. He is gruff, harum-scarum, stubborn, sometimes even violent! He doesn’t quite know what he’s up to then, but he does his job in spite of everything : picking people up, coming to their aid, undoing conflicts, furthering the course of love!" Bonaventure omits to speak about his acrobatic exploits, his ability to fly, his hilarious chasing about on roller-skates and the many falls, his incredible prowess on the trampoline! His role as an improbable angel fits him like a glove; you need to have met and held the blue gaze of this hefty fellow to know what it means to look an angel straight in the eye. Frequenting the Cirque Plume leads to all sorts of possible encounters. An angel, after all, you can handle that. But a "Little Miss Perfect", you know what that’s like ... do you? A little bit of a woman, grinning, ill-mannered, with a genius for malicious hanky-panky, but above all for acrobatics on a hanging drape or on a bike, one of those performers who give you a taste of what absolute gracefulness is. The genuineness of these two, their artistic genius and their humanity, the stuff they are made of quite naturally makes them part of the Plume tribe, these marvellously crazy folk who, in fifteen years, have drawn bigger and bigger crowds to their succession of big-tops, these stubborn dreamers who have managed to make circus rhyme with humour and utopia with lightness. "We wanted to get a hold on life, to control it ourselves. And, above all, bring poetry into everyday life, make it beautiful, awake."
Bernard Kudlak has lost nothing of his local accent; he has a little less hair and two daughters now, but has still the same demands and as many utopias as when he was twenty. With his brother, Pierre, and six other cronies he is the hard core of the Plume adventure. Friendship, hopes, temptations to live an alternative life style, odd-jobs, handcrafts or social work have peppered the lives of each one, but it was with a brass-band that the group from Besançon and Salins-les-Bains began to reinvent life.

"In my background, says Jean-Marie Jacquet, music was of no use to anyone, musicians were twits! The first time our brass-band played for an audience was in front of Strasbourg Cathedral. I’ll never forget the incredible thing that I had that day!" Then came the street performances, learning about acting. It was thanks to a village priest that Jean-Marie discovered rock music. Before that his tastes were more with Joe Dassin and Saturday night balls. "Father Vasselet, from Salins, he was curious about everything. He had Jimi Hendrix and Santana records and lent out what he was discovering to the youngsters." Right at the beginning, the Plumes played well-know pieces. But, very soon, the maestro, Robert Miny, one of the quadragenarian founders, created musical scores to fit the shows: he composed works played on wine glasses, PVC drain pipes, the violin, accordion, bouzouki, flute, or yet again the magical bellows, more dreamlike than the wildest of dreams. Creators of off-beat images, putting waking dreams onto the stage, acrobats and expert illusionists, poets of the bottle cork or of the soubassophone, the Plumes have hung on to their ideals of justice and of beauty of intelligent human relations. Their shows have succeeded one another, ever more poetic and successful. Always with more soul, without animals or strass. The latest one is called Mélanges - Opéra Plume. Lyrical and rock. Superb. Their first big-top in 1984 was leaky and it collapsed. The Plume audience had the right kind of humour: they thought it was a joke and rebuilt the lot with planks... and the show went on. The second big-top could seat 250 people. Today’s can bring together 1000 souls in front of an immense stage. It’s the only one in the world to have the middle off-centre, according to the design of Jean-Marie, who is now the technical director of the Plume company, which employs 42 people. At the age of 45, Jean-Marie hasn’t, for all that, any wrinkles on his brow. In Mélanges, he is the magician. And like the angel, he can also fly. But on a double bass.