20 January 2013
Somewhere on this planet there are a lot of white birds that are missing their plumage. They did not lose it in vain, however, as it was beautifully manipulated into costumes and props for the Compagnia Finzi Pasca production of La Verità at la Place des Arts.
La Verità is a work inspired by a huge stage curtain painted by Salvador Dali for his own reimagining of the Tristan and Isolde story in the form of a ballet, Mad Tristan, performed in New York in 1944. This is not that ballet or the original opera transformed into circus, but an original work with playful references to the Dali work.
Nothing was going to keep us away from this one. It was circus, it was a setting that was new for us, and the Dali element promised enough kookiness to hold our attention. It just isn't going to be possible for me to describe the whole of the show, or even to keep it in the order in which we saw it. My mind and my memory just don't work…that way. So I have to share by stream of consciousness and then possible edit into an order that makes some sense to me. I highly recommend seeing it for yourself to get the intended effect.
How much room can there be in the rafters above this stage? I almost lost count of how many different curtains and scrims we saw, let alone the circus elements of straps and cables and wires and weightier objects that descend and rise again. In fact, as I have no number for you, I did lose count. Each of them was fabulous in its own way and together they added up to an amazing backdrop for the performances.
A couple of the things I liked the most, maybe? The Dali itself was interesting for me in the observation of how its various elements were taken up in costumes or props. Amazing fluid projections, sometimes through the Dali curtain, sometimes through other fabrics, gave us a moving background that reinforced the surreal flavour of the work. And what I probably liked most of all was when there was a solid colour fabric loosely suspended and manipulated by acrobats on the sides while the shadows of others behind the fabric distorted larger and smaller as they moved in relation to a powerful light source. Bear in mind that this was the background, and there were still more things going on in the foreground.
Circus is clearly well-adapted to those of us whose attention can wander from thing to thing: there are always more things to look at that you might have expected.
The absurdity of some of the costumes or characters wandering across the stage, either in front of or behind the main action, was wonderful. Man in a red tutu walking on point across the stage. People with rhinoceros heads hamming it up in the background or peering through a doorway. If you ever wondered how anyone could see and move about wearing an oversized rhinoceros head, you have to see the two rhino-acrobat chimeras manipulate the diabolo…the end of this was almost a "clutch pearls" moment for me.
I always love the reimagining of a circus apparatus. The giant metal contraption that was like a twisted and complicated version of the cyr wheel was fantastic! It rolled an uneven line across the stage, over acrobats lying on the floor and yet not touched by it, with others executing beautiful moves atop and inside it. Another wheel adaptation was the plain cyr wheel, but with two and even three people squeezed into it, spinning across the stage together. Beautiful. I'm sure there were more, but my mind isn't wandering there at this moment.
And the variety of costumes! Lots of boys in dresses, but also lots of processions of elaborately costumed people who might well have marched their way out of a Dr. Seuss book, except that they tended to be bendier and more talented than many of those creatures.
There are always (or almost always) things in a circus that one person or another might not like. For us, it tends to be the contortionist element. Not that it wasn't well done – it really was – but I usually find it a bit creepy. Here is was well done and incorporated a giant marionette manipulated by hidden (by their black costumes) figures, and then it was pleasantly mocked by clowns, but there is still something creepy about a body being twisted in ways we don't expect.
My description is entirely inadequate, but my recommendation couldn't be more clear: go see this show, playing at Place des Arts until 9 February 2013. Here's a small taste in the form of a "behind the scenes" video: