Saturday, 9 August 2008

Les Fondus du Macadam à Thonon-les-Bains

If you ever wondered about the state of street theatre nowadays, I can tell you that it is alive and well and thriving on the streets of Thonon, in the Haute Savoie départment of France.

This is a well heeled but hard working town on the south shore of Lake Geneva, and the host every August of 5 days of anarchic and merry street theatre; some serious and some slapstick. Some for ardent theatre followers and comedy acts for children. Typical clowns enact a scene with a thread of story for the adults and fun for the kids.

The Stranglings, shown here, were a couple of Britons who brought a certain toilet humour, a sense of the ridiculous and British phlegm, which the French audience loved; especially the middle aged woman sitting next to me who nearly wet her knickers as she laughed so much. You'll just have to imagine the dirty laugh of the little boy sitting to her left. He couldn't have been more than 6 or 7 years old...

The next show seen was the following day 7th August, when at 17h00 in le Cour de l'Ecole des Arts, the show put on by the Compagnie Une de Plus was performance art at its weirdest, its most thought provoking and literally at its best.
This performance art was mesmeric. In hot sunshine in the courtyard of the Art School all was silent. benches laid out and in the middle of the coutryard stood a pole with bars weighed down by brown paper wrapped parcels on strings, swinging as if a huge outdoor mobile like those above a baby's crib. An electronic monotone started with over lays then of music and gradually firework explosions laid over. The pendule starts to swing, the boxes rise. Something large covered in brown paper sheets starts to unravel in a breeze and fall away.
Underneath the wrapping paper is suspended a mannaquin, with the brown head, hands and feet of an artist's work top movable model. The figure is wreathed in a cream coloured shroud like garment.
Striding on stage left a dark brown warrior on stilts with similar head, and hands but elongated rough hoof like feet.
They begin then to explore their world, their relationship builds, establishes it self and is destroyed, one by the other, seemingly with regrets. And ends. All the while the audience from adults to children of all ages is quite silent. They are mesmerised.

And with the show's 35 minute run at an end the applause from such a small audience group is loud, enthusiastic and sustained. The Compagnie Une de Plus seems to be genuinely surprised and gratified their performance has touched so deeply.

Wonderful stuff.

And finally as the heavens opened, and the rain poured down, the little courtyard of La Bodega played host to Lisbeth & Lisbeth and their world of culinary delights, mistakes, laughter and excessive drinking...

They made films of the audience using whisks as cameras, they peeled and cored apples upon their table waists and offered the thin slices to eager participants and one Lisbeth used a candle dowser as a drinking vessel. The more she had the more she needed, the more she needed the more she got...

And when I was serenaded with, "Only You...." I knew it was time to go.

There were still two evenings to be to be dansed to, clowns to run away from and fireworks to be dazzled by...

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