Sunday, July 17, 2011

More of the circus festival!


The kids and I were delighted to be able to catch one of the Ecole Nationale de Cirque's street events yesterday. These are big performance-art projects, held outdoors in various locations of the city, during the three weeks of the festival, two or three times a day. There are at least 5 or 6 different shows, and they're all called "Les Minutes". The one we caught was "Les Minutes: Revolution" and Kyle says it's one of the most-fun shows that they do. As you can see from the attached video, it was super-fun. In fact, I can't think of anything that could be much more fun than 49 of the fittest young circus acrobats in the world playing a big French version of Simon Says in the middle of the city. The whole event was about 20 minutes, I cut it down to a few minutes of highlights here, just so you can get the idea. It totally made my day.

Today's adventure was Le Cirque Invisible, which, I must admit, I enjoyed less.

Everyone raves about this show - basically because of its pedigree. The performers, Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée and Victoria Chaplin, are undeniably two of the most groundbreaking VIPs in modern circus. According to their biography, this show has been touring (and evolving) for 30 years. "Legendary figures, pioneers of the new circus genre and inventors of a unique style..."

so, I was impressed, and felt I should see it. But that didn't make me enjoy the show.

The show is essentially a long series of prop-comedy gags, some more entertaining than others. Jean-Baptiste and Victoria take turns on stage throughout. While her bits are usually quite lovely - some remarkable use of costumes and acrobatics - his tend to be goofy, trite, and over-the-top. I was tired of watching him by his second appearance (and he must have appeared twenty times or more). Above all I was blown away by the excessive use of giant comic props, which must be an absolute nightmare to pack and pre-set. There must be hundreds of items used in this show, many used for only a few seconds. Every time they brought out something like a giant tuba, a long magic table or a mardi-gras-sized buffoonish costume, I was mentally calculating the shipping containers. Truly horrifying. Maybe this contrast was greater to me because we just saw Circa last week, which used almost no props at all...

(and let's not even mention the doves, ducks, and rabbits! how ever do they travel internationally?!)

It is somehow inspiring and worrying, at the same time, to see these two performing onstage. Knowing how old they are (according to Wikipedia, Victoria is 60, Jean-Baptiste is 74!) a big part of me doesn't want to see them up there. Shouldn't they be settling down somewhere enjoying their grandkids at this point? But admittedly, Victoria is still lovely to watch... who can imagine moving with that much elegance and strength at the age of 60? ...overall, though, I just think their time has passed. I'd rather pay tribute to them in some other way.

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