‘Foutoir Céleste’, by Cirque Exalté

Review from: CIRCa Festival, Auch; October 2022

This review was written as part of a module on the BA Circus degree at SKH. You can read more student reviews from CIRCa here.

This review is intended for an audience of people with an interest in circus who are looking to read thoughts about the show Foutoir Céleste by Cirque Exaltè. The purpose is mainly to share thoughts and for myself to achieve more clarity about my thoughts about the show. But also to celebrate what in my opinion was a very joyful and entertaining evening. I am not intending to give a perfect summary of the show since this would have required a longer text. But simply to share some of what I found the most memorable and thoughtful after the show.

A celestial mess of thoughts after seeing Foutoir Céleste:

Foutoir céleste – a celestial mess, a mess that is belonging or relating to heaven. An energetic show filled with impressive acrobatic skills and enjoyment. A celebration and a refreshing breath of circus. A show directed by Sara Desprez and Angelos Matsakis, played in CIRCa festival in Auch.

Through the show I see a theme of circles. Matthieu Bonnecuelle, dressed in the fur of a coyote, circles around the manege on a bmx, performing an impressive selection of flatground bmx. The rest of the crew joins the coyote in the circle, or perhaps the coyote is causing them to move, keeping the circle going as they climb up and down in a series of acrobalance and partner acrobatics. Through the show the circles continue with juggling clubs going in circular patterns and as we see Sara Desprez in the swing trapeze, twisting the ropes of the trapeze into a spin and swinging in a circular motion around the manege while also the rigging point of the swing trapeze is occasionally turning around in a circle. It was refreshing for me to see since I have previously only seen swing trapeze as a square discipline only swinging back and forth with little variation between acts. With the entire show ending by coming back to the starting scene, Matthieu Bonnecuelle dressed as a coyote circling the manege and the crew joining, and finally a little kid dressed as a coyote running out on stage, I am given the idea that the entire show is a circle. A cycle, made to be repeated.

Moving on from the swing trapeze number, Sara Desprez ends her number with a short spoken word. Now I don’t speak French, but my friend who does explains the speech is about fear: how one can be afraid of something but also afraid of feeling fear, how do you tell the difference? Maria Jesus Penjean Puig puts herself right in centre dressed up in feathers giving what I interpret as a display of power, but what follows starts to feel more like an attempt to control the group that doesn’t necessarily do as she wishes. Following by comes an energetic mix of dance and group acrobatics and juggling including the whole group. In general the show is energetic and high tempo with a lot of movements and collaboration between the artists. Matthieu Bonnecuelle is present on his bmx and repeatedly puts my heart in the wrong place when almost attacking the acrobats and getting close in under throws and catches of the two flyers, Sara Desprez and Maria Jesus Penjean Puig.

In a time where a lot of what I see tends to be dark and slow, I appreciate this breath of lifeful circus. The artists took the space on stage when it was given to them and allowed each other, but also themselves to be loud and visible and the technique was impressive, clean and safe. I also liked the dramaturgy, the show started slowly giving the audience time to see each and everyone of the artists when they walked around the manege, actually seeking eye contact with their audience.

Through the show I could see a theme of vulnerability and challenging fear. Angelos Matsakis with his open catharsis in anger, throwing clubs in all directions. Sara Desprez with her speech but also a visible presentation of fear, she is building up the courage to jump down from the trapeze and land in balance on top of Jonathan Charlet, catching her from underneath. To me Matthieu Bonnecuelle (dressed in coyote fur) came to represent something wild and untamed who through the show made the other artists move and react. Towards the end Matthieu Bonnecuelle appears to me to be tamed by, or at least befriended by Maria Paz Marciano in a bmx and movement duet. To me the duet was a bit theatrical, them slowly getting close to each other and finally touching combined with a lot of slow hand movements that I found a bit dramatic. It was not my favourite part. But it did wrap up the story I made in my head nicely because after this friendship was formed Matthieu Bonnecuelle in his coyote fur seemed to me to be a stronger part of the group, especially when the small coyote kid came in at the end, it gave me a sense that they were all a family.

Overall I really enjoyed the show. It made me happy, I was not bored and I did not once wish it would end, which is very impressive considering how tired I was when I entered the tent. But through the show my energy poured back from the energy sparking around the artists. So thank you, Compagnie Exalté and the whole crew of Foutoir Céleste. I would truly consider it a celestial mess, but a clean and safe one.

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