On 25 January 2018, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced the latest annual Doomsday Clock statement. The iconic Clock is now set at two minutes to midnight, the closest to the symbolic point of annihilation since 1953 at the height of the Cold War. Despite the grim assessment, it is believed responsible humans can reset the clock. The media release urges citizens to “get engaged, get involved, and help create that future. The time is now”.
In case you are wondering what the Doomsday Clock has to do with this charming French circus as part of Perth Festival, perhaps the English translation of the title will give you a clue – ‘It’s not yet midnight…’.
After a bit more sleuthing however, I discover that my theory is way off as it turns out “the title refers to the fleeting, exhilarating moment of suspended flight when humans seem to defy gravity and become aware that we are stealing from time itself.”
What Compagnie XY do certainly is exhilarating for performers and audience alike. Like Elphaba and Galinda in Wicked, the chummy acrobats defy gravity with friendship and camaraderie. Acrobatic feats never looked so easy as when these 20-odd humbly dressed performers of all shapes, sizes and ages get together on stage.
Il n’est pas encore minuit… starts with unexpected tension as a massive brawl breaks out and the audience mirrors the conflict on stage with stiffness and worried expressions. This show is a considered study in empathy as the tension gradually gives way to peace and rises to complete harmony and love. This is not to say that we are not on the edge of our seats, because we are.
The score beautifully complements the action, with interludes of dancing, and the periods of pin-drop silence accentuate the moments of peak delight and awe. Catapults, wooden-board trampolines carried by a number of performers and bodies upon bodies keep the action varied and the high setting of the light rigging at the beautiful Regal Theatre hints at the daring sky-high antics of this likeable troupe. (Have you ever seen a human wedding cake?).
If circus is about fear and trust, then it is reflective of life, and we all need to be lifted up from time to time. At all times the ‘flyers’ are supported by their ‘bases’ and surrounded by a coterie of peers ready to catch them should they fall, holding space in the most natural way imaginable. A poignant moment has a single performer cross the stage one step at a time without ever touching the ground; getting by and getting high with a little help from her friends.
Compagnie XY may be one of the leading contemporary circus companies in the world but they are unique in their set up, operating as a collective who live and work together in Lille, France. This togetherness and ongoing building of utmost trust amongst members results in brilliantly choreographed, jaw-dropping and poetic spectacles. They operate according to three principles: cooperation, mutual aid and solidarity.
Lille is said to be reminiscent of Paris with a good dash of Flemish influence. Every three years the districts of Lille stage an art festival and carnival-style parade. Watching Il n’est pas encore minuit…, one could easily imagine being present at one such parade, or even in a small village in the French countryside, perhaps at a fair or wedding in a bygone era.
The Australian premiere of Il n’est pas encore minuit… is a call to work together and stay in tune with each other in the spirit Compagnie XY’s motto: ‘Alone goes faster, together we go further.’
This is an excellent Festival offering with broad appeal that plays with absurdity and breaks down gender roles to deliver an uplifting experience for audiences. Ends 17 February. Go to the Perth Festival website for more information.