La TOHU, Montréal Complètement Cirque; 10th July 2016
Flip FabriQue have officially been a company for four years, but the troupe of six have been friends for ten, ever since attending Quebec Circus School together. After they graduated, they went their separate ways into solo careers, but eventually Bruno Gagnon, company member, founder and artistic director, contacted everyone to suggest they form a company. The result produced their acclaimed first show Attrape-Moi (‘Catch Me’) in 2013, and is now followed by Transit, making its debut at the iconic TOHU circus venue as part of Montréal Complètement Cirque.
The show begins with a wall of storage containers and upbeat music. The crew arrive and look official, climbing ladders, examining blueprints and being otherwise busy, until their interactions lead to a little hand-to-hand and increasingly powerful acrobatic maneuvers. They chat together throughout this time, talking about the hypothetical: what if this were their last show together? What would each of them want to do? It is an interesting, and perhaps provocative, premise for a group that has worked well together for so long. Could this show be foretelling an underlying urge to break free of the group and explore solo work again? Are they simply imagining the end of their performing careers? Or does the question simply serve to remind us all of the uncertainty of existence and the need to seize the day?
Whatever the motivation behind the premise, the performers focus more on the virtuosity of their technique than on demonstrating any aspects of their relationship to us or building a rapport with the audience. As a result, the show sometimes feels rushed and the dialogue disconnected from the people who speak it. Jade Dussault, the lone female performer, seems especially separate from most of the action, until the action calls for a toss-the-girl moment or her solo hula hoop routine.
If the disassociation underlying this production was not intentional, perhaps Gagnon’s close participation in both the performance and the directing prevented him from seeing with a clear eye the effect that their tight-knit display projected? Transit is full of stunning physical talent – hand-to-hand work that makes the audience gasp; playfulness, trust and risk in equal measures – and seems more keen on stressing athletic prowess through a cabaret style line-up than on expressing a unified idea or narrative. Overall, Transit comes off as an homage to traditional circus with a nod to a more contemporary aesthetic and – although it sometimes gives the feeling of a troupe fresh out of circus school – the audience eats it up.
The ‘last show’ concept prompts each of the performers to create their own solo and a few group acts that push past the common in to the experimental and absurdly joyous. They do so with invigorating and non-stop act transitions such as bounce juggling on a glass wall. A graceful and powerful straps act from Hugo Ouellet-Côté begins with a Skype call then moves on to show a projection of his moving aerial point of view as the camera was attached to him. There’s a joyous jump rope party, an impressive tower of glowing juggling clubs, an inspired diabolo act where the over-the-shoulder trick is applied on a grand scale to the whole set structure, and even a little haka-esque dance. Add to that something approaching gender play with hoop dancing turned hoop diving, a comic fat clown on straps act, and a trampoline wall finale –a visual feast of chaos and control—and we realise Transit evokes the spirit of joie de vivre. The multi-talented cast leaps from one discipline to another in a heartbeat, leading us to hope that these shows at TOHU are indeed not their last shows, but just the beginning of a young company’s journey.