Saturday, April 24, 2010

Compagnie XY: Le Grand C

I was lucky enough to score two tickets to Compagnie XY's performance of Le Grand C at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm tonight.  And since Natalie (who is one tough critic) attended the show last week and gave it a glowing review, I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.

Previously, my only contact with "circus arts" was Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall (courtesy of Udita), which was a breathtaking, awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping performance.

Let me put it this way: if Cirque du Soleil is a Krispy Kreme donut, then Compagnie XY is homemade granola made with steel cut oats and honey you cultivated yourself.  If Cirque du Soleil is Celine Dion (which is fitting actually, since she's French Canadian) in Vegas, then Compagnie XY is your favorite, local, feminist folk artist, playing the college circuit.

The only two things these groups have in common is that they're both French (sort of, depends on what your definition of French is) and their shows involve acrobatic elements.  The similarities end there. 

If you're looking for polished performances, theatrics, flamboyant costumes, and contortionists with agile bodies resembling those of underdeveloped rhythmic gymnasts, then Cirque is the way to go.  If you, on the other hand, prefer a performance that is raw, emotional, sweaty, trembling, with no-special-effects-just-pure-human-strength, then Le Grand C is for you. 

Both have their merits, but the realness of Compagnie XY and, perhaps our proximity to the stage, left me with my heart in my mouth: the danger and risk of what the performers were achieving was live, pulsating and literally, in my face.  They had no fear.  And there were a couple of slips and at least one near fall, but these hiccups simply made the show better, in a way I cannot explain.

I won't give too much away (though I'm posting a clip below) in case you ever have a chance to see the show, but it's quite intense while simultaneously fun and flirtatious - much like stumbling into a Yann Tiersen dream, I'd think.  The show opens in semi-darkness, with only a low hum of dissonant music.  Large sections are performed without music and there, the performers' vulnerability is laid bare - naked and exposed.  On a superficial level, I loved the costume design and the sensuality of bodies climbing barefoot over each other.  When skirts rode up, they were discreetly but purposefully pushed down. The women (one who could have passed as an athletic Marion Cotillard) held their own against the men by demonstrating their supreme strength through handstands held for excruciating lengths of time - sans wobbles. 

Check it out for yourself here:

Photo source

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