L’enfant qui, Institut français d'Ecosse (Venue 134), Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Jephan de Villiers (sculptor), Patrick Masset (author, director, stage and lighting designer), Lise Masset (costumes), Delphine Lardot ( props), Andé Lebacq and Alexandre Obeolensky (masks), Paulina Borisova (puppet maker), Thomas Théret and Jordà Feret (set design), Anne Barraquin (photo)
Morgane Aimerie Robin (puppeteer), Caroline Leroy, Michael Pallandre, Adria Cordoncillo (acrobats), Florence Saveur (cellist)
Running time

In true surrealist style, Belgian theatre company T1J has on the side of its black travelling van the words Ceci n’est pas un cirque. While making full use of their circus skills and taking place inside a bespoke chapiteau, this self- described “impressionist” show inspired by the early life of sculptor Jephan de Villiers, is an interpretation in acrobatics and puppeteering of the isolated world of a sick child.
The 150 -seater yurt that feels like entering a Bedouin tent with ribbons of Arabic lettering is dimly lit by chandeliers. Spectators sit on low benches around the performing area and action takes place on a hard narrow strip that dissects the tent and sits against the soft earth underfoot. Here some glinting axe circling causes some genuine alarm at its proximity before they are wielded into a tree stump to serve as hand- holds for acrobatics that are executed with the almost casual air of the truly consummate by the three performers.
The puppet representing a bespectacled, booted and cossetted child is beautifully manipulated by puppeteer Morgane Aimerie Robin who looks to have the dual and intimate role as nurse to the boy. An observer and gatherer in the forest, his weakness is in sharp contrast with the raw muscular strength of the woodsmen/acrobats. His small acts of mischief and curiosity involve some interaction with the audience that a real child would be chided for but the puppet evokes smiling reactions. His redemption in becoming part of the forest through sculpture is shown through carved masks in de Villiers’ design. This narrative free show is given voice by cellist Florence Saveur who at one point manages to play while being held high and horizontal. Impressive stuff!
Some knowledge of the sculptor’s past would aid understanding of this sometimes bewildering esoteric piece. Much of the seemingly ‘home crowd’ audience who may have had this gave a long, standing ovation.
Suitability 14+
6-24 August (not 11,14, 18 and 21)