The Saturday evening of the Fun Fatale Festival presented The Great d’Amico & Water’s Circus by Collectiff And Then… followed by an open stage show with eight acrobatic numbers. On Sunday evening, the audience had a chance to see Kajsa Bohlin from Sweden and her Reality’s Neighbor and then Cirkus Galaxie NGC 2997 by Amanitas – The Fire Theater.
In The Great d’Amico & Water’s Circus, artists Lucie N’Durihahe and Francesca Hyde didn’t perform as acrobats but as actresses and clowns. The show wast hosted by Lucie N’Duhirahe in English and to make sure everybody understood, she asked for a volunteer from the audience to translate her less obvious statements to Czech. The volunteer was Eliška Brtnická from Cirkus Mlejn.
The opening words by the host made it clear the show intended to mock various circus acts. Lucie N’Duhirahe announced that with over a hundred acrobats and countless wild animals, her circus was the greatest novelty in the world but as most of the ensemble was unable to come that evening, the two acrobats would have to do everything themselves with the help of the audience. She went on to introduce the numbers of many acrobats all of which were eventually performed by Francesca Hyde. The absenting acrobats were from all parts of the world (Russia, USA, China, etc.) and each were presenting a different circus technique. In front of the audience, Francesca Hyde would change costumes and wigs to become a blond Russian, an American with long dreadlocks, etc. The duo used the stereotypes relating to each given nation for comical results. The American kept mistaking Czech Republic for Italy and repeating the phrase “Oh my God!”, the Russian appeared in an overdecorated costume with ruffled sleeves. All acrobats needed to hear how beautiful and fantastic they were and found it hard to part with the audience when their number was over. Francesca Hyde portrayed all of them in a very similar fashion with exaggerated gestures and inflated egos and the characters only differed in their costumes and accents.
The two protagonists also involved the audience in their slapstick. Since their famous circus was short several hundreds of animals, spectators were cast into the roles of a lion and a horse. A female lion was needed for the human-head-in-a-lion’s-mouth number and a horse was necessary for the Russian horse rider. The man impersonating the horse improvised his role so well that even the two home performers were impressed. The actresses made sections of the audience compete in lion roaring and taught them how to properly throw an acrobat in the air by tossing toy dolls and stuffed animals in the audience and directing people to throw them to each other on “up” while the catchers had to say “my” when the toys landed in their hands. This game even turned slightly dangerous as there were so many flying objects in the audience that it was hard to keep track of what was coming at who and some of the dolls were fairly heavy. Nevertheless, the audience enjoyed this part of the show very much. Lucie N’Duhirahe and Francesca Hyde were eventually rewarded for their mockery of circus with a huge round of applause.
On the open stage, 12 acrobats presented 8 separate numbers and the show was hosted by the performers from the previous production – Lucie N’Duhirahe as the host and Francesca Hyde in her American character.
The first number was Stéphanie N’Duhirahe and Morgane Widmer on double cloud swing followed by Dafne Delamar as a juggler under the stage name Lady Orange performing a number from the Vintage!Women!Variete production presented in whole earlier in the festival. The third act was the Mimbre troupe from England specializing in group acrobatics. The Mimbre members performed an excerpt from their poetic production entitled Until Now which deals with the themes of friendship, meeting and saying good-bye. In this number, Silvia Fratelli, Martha Harrison and Emma Norin performed demanding partner-acrobatics and balance figures.
The fourth number was a sample of the Dynamo show in which Eliška Brtnická and Jana Klimová fought for the spot on the static trapeze using force, acrobatics and braided hair. The fifth number entitled Zirka Trollop – Literary Acrobatics featured Jana Korb and Anja Gessenhard. While Jana Korb was reading aloud Franz Kafka’s short story about a female acrobat who arranged her life so that she would never have to go down from her beloved trapeze, Anja Gessenhardt was climbing over her, standing on her shoulders and performing handstands on her.
The sixth act brought back Stéphanie N’Duhirahe and Morgane Widmer who showed their skills on the rope. The seventh act had Mimbre present another excerpt from Until Now and the open stage segment ended with Lucie N’Duhirahe and Francesca Hyde on the double cloud swing, which is their greatest strength, in a number with the added catch of braiding their hair together, thus concluding the show with the braid theme started earlier by Eliška Brtnická and Jana Klimová.
On Sunday evening, the audience was less populous but those who gave the show a pass this time missed an outstanding performance by Swedish acrobat, dancer and slam-poetry champion Kajsa Bohlin. Her Reality’s Neighbor production was philosophical in a similar way to Moy Prescott’s performance presented on Friday. However, while Prescott dealt with her theme of loneliness without words, Bohlin accompanied her performance with intriguing storytelling. Her story about childhood, growing up and adulthood went hand-in-hand with object manipulation using several suitcases, dance acrobatics (Bohlin didn’t stop speaking even while doing backward somersaults) and a number on the Cyr wheel. All acrobatics added extra commentaries and elaborated on the episodes from her life she related to the audience.
Her character is a young woman with something odd about her ever since her childhood who therefore tries hard to do everything that she assumes the general opinion would consider normal to do. She goes jogging, because it’s a normal everyday thing to do. She wants to get married and longs for a man who would ask for her hand – and she found one in the audience. Bohlin and the spectator rehearsed the marriage proposal, they learned lines and looks that would fit in a romantic film and even got a ring and a fake bouquet (the ring was the Cyr wheel), but she eventually turned the marriage proposal down. After the Cyr wheel number, Bohlin suddenly put a birthday cap on her nose as a beak and with jerky movements, she announced to the audience that she had finally figured out what had been wrong with her all her life: she was a bird! And buck-bucking, she hopped off stage.
Kajsa Bohlin’s performance used clowning and acrobatics to elaborate on the philosophical subject of normalcy and relativity of our lives. The surprise ending of the story only testifies to the fact that things don’t have to be what they seem.
The second annual Fun Fatale festival concluded with Cirkus Galaxie NGC 2997 by Amanitas Fire Theater (Czech Republic). The Amanitas members were dressed in extravagant costumes by Linda Mikolášková which sprayed sparks, flashed and shone light. These remarkable characters with bizarre hair styling, makeup and body painting put on a fire show with torches, walked on stilts, danced with hoops, juggled and spouted fire. Amanitas took the audience to a galaxy 40 million light years from our planet where a fantastic fire circus puts on a rich visual show accompanied by an original live-mixed soundtrack.
The Fun Fatale festival gave Czech artists, acrobats and spectators a chance to get acquainted with the work of both established and rising foreign female acrobats and their diverse approaches to contemporary circus and receive inspiration for their own activities and a perspective in comparison with the Czech contemporary circus scene.
Photo: Kajsa Bohlin
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.