I went to see the Du Goudron et des Plumes circus at the Barbican last night cos the Londonist said I had too. This is the third time I’ve made that mistake. You’d think I’d have given up on obscure performance art and accepted that I’m never going to be one of the wisely-nodding-enthusiastically-applauding audience members but no. Put “must see” and “circus” in the same sentence and I’m a shoo-in.
According to the rave reviews, Du Goudron et des Plumes means Tar and Feathers. I’m not sure, however, that the translation sheds any more light on the performance nor would have been useful to have known before going in. Amid the clashing chords and wildly choreographed moves, the closest I came to comprehension was a recurring ship theme and some fraught relationships (Sea? Shipwrecked? The vulnerability of man?). I’m clutching at straws now.
Maybe this wasn’t the point. Maybe these experiences are meant to challenge the desire to box everything into a story or streamline the moves as Streetdance and Britains Got Talent have made us accustomed too. Maybe the discomfort is part of the experience and you’re supposed to sit through that so that, when you go a back to the ‘real world’, you take something new back with you? I don’t really know.
What I took back with me was a clever scene where an actor on an elevated platform was mirrored by his upside-down double who was clinging to the bars beneath him with his toes. A lamp-lit scene behind paper curtains that distorted the size of a chair to the fraction of a man and managed to multiply the size of the cast through where the slits fell. And a sense of confusion.
I am glad that I try different things and have, in the course of my somewhat eclectic outings, discovered a few gems that have blown me away; but on this occasion, I might have preferred a night wrapped up on the sofa or catching up with friends in the pub. I sometimes under-appeciate the simple things.