The second festival evening entitled Three In One manifested the richness of expressive means of contemporary circus. The program block started with Leave It! by Francesca Martello (Italy) and Gemma Palomar (Spain) from the UnA ViA Company, continued with a solo entitled Zenith AM/FM by Danish acrobat Moa Prescott and concluded with Energy In Harmony by the French Pepper-Choc Duo consisting of performers Isabelle Schuster and Lucie Lepoivre.
The Leave It! production was inspired by the story of Lilith, the first wife of Biblical Adam, created by God from earth the same way as her husband. Since Adam and her could never agree, she was driven out of paradise and became a demon. The legend – which comes in different versions in Sumerian, Mesopotamian and Christian literature – also has it that it was Lilith who handed the infamous apple to Eve. Francesca Martello could be seen as impersonating Eve and Gemma Palomar in her face-covering hood probably takes on the role of the dreaded Lilith, although the inspiration with the aforementioned legend is so loose that the characters could be easily reversed.
Leave It! takes place on a bare stage furnished only with a 6-meter Chinese pole. The scene is darkened and there is a woman cuddled around the base of the pole as another woman is descending from above. The second woman is completely blind as her face is covered with a white hood. The woman at the bottom is handcuffed to the pole and both women are thus trapped in a way.
When the hooded Lilith reaches the floor, she starts feeling it with her hands, crawling on its surface and exploring the space around her. Lilith hands a key to Eve which she uses to liberate herself from the manacles. Eve is watching her carefully as Lilith finds a knife while groping around the floor, gets up on her feet and starts moving in the space with the blade in front of herself. Eve is still interested in the masked lady, so she starts gently touching her and dancing with her despite the risk poised by the bared weapon in Lilith’s hands. Eve helps Lilith use the blade to get rid of the face-covering hood and then starts playing with her. Eve tries to arrange Lilith in a standing position but the second woman’s body keeps collapsing unable to support itself.
Eve is a comedian, makes various funny grimaces and conjures perplexed facial expressions, her now-demasked counterpart is a more ethereal and fragile woman. Lilith’s face is that of a saint but at the same time, she is toying with Eve. As soon as Eve turns her back to Lilith, the second of the women scurries somewhere else to surprise Eve as soon as she turns back. When Eve is dressing up Lilith in a T-shirt, Lilith suddenly grabs her in her arms, refuses to let go and stands there cuddled up to Eve with a blissful expression. On the contrary, Eve is surprised and rather displeased with the embrace. This contradiction carries on a comical rather than uneasy note throughout the show as a persistent theme.
Eve takes hold of Lilith’s knife and solicits compliments from male spectators threatening to kill them otherwise. With a knife in their faces, men readily comply. The woman who covets praise also yearns a beautiful shiny apple suspended on a string next to the pole. However, she doesn’t know how to climb the pole which would be actually impossible in her nylon stockings anyway, so she goes off stage to seek help. Meanwhile, Lilith playfully jumps on the pole, starts climbing it, walking on it (with the help of special anti-slip footwear) and dancing around it. She reaches the apple in no time. After Lilith’s elegant acrobatic pole number, Eve returns with a chair which she puts next to the pole to help her get to the apple. However, the desired fruit is still too high to be reached. Lilith shows Eve some of her tricks on the pole, quickly reaches the apple, picks is, tosses it around and teases Eve with it as she is trying to cajole it from her in various ways: “You are so beautiful. I love you. I really love you.” Her compliments don’t have an immediate effect but eventually, the nimble acrobat finally throws the apple down to the begging woman. Then they dance together with the knife and the apple, throwing them back and forth until their number comes to a juicy end: they split the apple with the knife and each takes a bite of her half.
Although it would be hard to agree with the annotation of Leave It! which states that the performers intended it to be an ultimate statement about power, freedom of speech and accepted rules, the performance was powerful and inventive, and clearly explained how two absolutely different women who started as competitors became allies.
Zenith AM/FM by Danish performer Moy Prescott falls in the category of contemporary circus which reflects on current social issues. In this case, the performer decided to scrutinize loneliness in today’s world. As the title suggests, the production has to do with the radio.
We see a young, beautiful woman sitting (alone) at a table in the evening while a neighbor above her is throwing a loud party, which makes the loneliness of our protagonists even more torturous. The young woman is bored and her boredom leads her to strange games. She starts playing with the glasses on her forehead and tries to move them down to her nose using only movements of her head, facial muscles and teeth. Using objects in an unexpected way is one of the principles of slapstick. Prescott develops her unusual behavior on many levels. Apart from the bizarre way to put her glasses down, she also starts using the same vision aid to capture radio waves: She sticks her right index finger into her bottle of wine and starts searching for radio waves with the glasses she is holding in her left hand. She manages to tune into a classical-music station, a disco radio and a talk show about the problems of lonely people. Our protagonists returns to sit at the table again and she listens to the radio explaining the many dangers of lonely life.
Tuning into several other stations, the lonely lady starts pretending she is having a man visit her at home. She pours wine into a second glass for her invisible partner and hands it to him with an irresistible smile. She talks to him and the two of them drink wine, the man’s share being poured to the floor. However, the woman would like the man to take interest in her rather than in the bottle of wine, so she lies down on the table and starts seducing the man. Still, the invisible man is more tempted by another glass of wine. The woman is pouring more and more wine for the man and her disillusionment over her choice of partner is building up to the point that she dismisses the illusory date and moves over to a rope on the right side of the stage. She is so desperate she want to hang herself on the rope immediately. Fortunately, the rope is so tight that wrapping it around the neck is impossible. Rather than to end her life, the acrobat then uses the rope to walk, swing and roll over on and perform various tricks which conclude her brilliant philosophical and comical acrobatic performance.
The final show of the Friday night was Energy In Harmony by Pepper-Choc Duo. The performance started with a funny introduction on the importance of harmonious energy and the harmfulness of cell-phone waves and stress. Both acrobats scuttled on stage in pale-blue fairy-like dresses, said the introduction in French, German, high-speed English and finally, the Czech version came from the loudspeakers. As far as acrobatics are concerned, the performers executed the 40-minute show with professional confidence (both acrobats are experienced soloists and teachers) however, the structure of the production showed some weak points. The title theme of “energy in harmony” didn’t connect the entire production as in some of its parts, it was absent. The show consisted mostly of solo acrobatic numbers interspersed with scenes, in which Lucie Lepoivre was the clown and Isabelle Schuster played her more serious counterpart. For example, Lucie Lepoivre used a juggling club as a microphone, she fastened a fake flower in a flowerpot to her head and watched agape whatever Isabelle Schuster was doing.
Isabelle Schuster performed aerial acrobatics on the silks and Lucie Lepoivre demonstrated her skills on the static trapeze. The show incorporated older solo numbers by the two acrobats, e. g., Schuster’s Exit 11 presented last year in Brusseles or Lepoivre’s older number o n the trapeze. They found a comical way to incorporate drinking after physically demanding numbers into the performance extinguishing thirst with water from an aquarium with wooden fish. The acrobats used various techniques (balancing, juggling) and changed costumes (using a novel idea of having T-shirts suspended on hangers around the stage) but they completely abandoned the theme of “energy in harmony” which was used to start the performance. All that was left of this theme were glowing candles on the edge of the stage. However, their acrobatics – especially partner techniques and a demanding duo number on the trapeze – were absolutely flawless and performed with grace and confidence.
photo: Vojtěch Brtnický
added: March 11, 2013
The author is a student of journalism at the School of Philosophy of the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. This article was written within the framework of the educational project entitled How To Write On Contemporary Circus organized by Cirqueon for future journalists.