Perth Festival review: Il n’est pas encore minuit by Compagnie XY·
Regal Theatre, 9 February ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·
I don’t have a whole heap of regrets, but one that I do have is never having learned to do anything really incredible. I’m not talking about learning to speak Spanish fluently, or playing the trombone…these are admirable skills to be sure, but they are not incredible. I mean doing a triple axle on ice-skates, or starting a fire with two sticks, or memorizing the phone book. Doing backflips off someone’s shoulders definitely counts. It’s a skill that evokes sheer wonder.
This sense of wonder filled the Regal Theatre last Friday when an underpacked house witnessed the spectacle that is Compagnie XY. The French troupe of acrobats are renowned for pushing the limits of the human body…Il n’est past encore minuit (It is not yet midnight) does just that. The show begins with a series of authentic-seeming wrestles between the players – so authentic that I convinced my junior companions that I’d forgotten it was actually a fighting show, not an acrobat show we were here to see. The mild tension built by these fierce tackles quickly changed to laughter when two very petite women took centre-stage, wrestling with such brutality that it felt a bit like watching a couple of elves having a battle.
Wrestling transformed seamlessly into throwing…the throwing of bodies, that is. Watching how easily bodies were propelled into the air, it was difficult to remember that these were actual human beings being tossed around, rather than feather-weight fairy people. One of the really refreshing aspects of Compagnie XY is the sheer diversity of human forms within the circus. Of course, one has the petite women and men who form the top of human towers, but there were also a good number of more generously proportioned individuals. Remarkably, these latter figures were also frequently airborne. There’s a spirit of egalite here in all aspects of play. The usual gender roles one observes within the circus are regularly flouted – women suspending smaller men; the troupe holding men aloft, rather than the usual female star.
There’s also a vast range of ages performing – I haven’t been able to pin down the age of the troupe’s founder, Abdeliazide Senhadji, but let’s just say he has the silver hair and bearing of someone in his late 40’s or early 50’s. Others are barely into their 20’s. It’s a novel and gorgeous thing to witness such a disparate group of bodies coming together in perfect cohesion.
And there is so much to witness! One’s eyes flit ceaselessly around the Regal’s sizeable stage, trying not to miss a thing. This is impossible – you’re caught up in an elaborately arranged pile of humans when suddenly from stage left a body literally flies into view. Highlights included a sequence involving four humans standing atop each other’s shoulders; a perfectly average-sized man being propelled into the air off a plywood platform, executing a triple backflip; a tower of three humans collapsing forward into a group of catchers only to remain assembled and then tipped backwards into the arms of other catchers. Ridiculous! My personal favourite was a subtle routine wherein players had another player standing on their shoulders…they then strolled calmly about, no hands supporting the weight of the human atop them.
Mix in an eclectic mix of music and you’re left with a wonderfully entertaining hour, thoroughly deserving of the gasping admiration and standing ovation from the audience.
Fabulous. I implore you to see it. No really – go and book your ticket now.
Photo: Perth Festival