We were discussing taking our son to a circus, one without animals. I was under the impression we were going to the Cirque du Soleil, however there was some crossed wires and we ended up going to the Theatre du Soleil, a rather different to our original idea. I even wrote to a friend saying we were going to Cirque du Soleil, only to be corrected by my wife.
The day arrived. If truth be told, it was rather a glum, damp kind of day. At times it seemed like the traffic would delay our arrival time and chance of eating before the show. There was an accident in a tunnel, flashing lights and the word accident, were illuminated like a beacon. In the end we arrived in good time. The surroundings of the theatre are not typical. There is an area with horses being trained. Yes this not Covent Garden, where I went to last summer to see “The all goes wrong play”. It is almost like you are plonked in the countryside. We get our tickets and a man, who looks of a theatrical ilk, shows us where we can sit. We venture into a big space. There are many early arrivals, who are sat around tables eating. Food plays an intrinsic part in life, for the French. The food on offer is not French however, it is more Asiatic. My wife and I are happy to eat tofu, while my son is fearful of the mushrooms and is given a packet filled with mushrooms which looks like the kind of thing you might be given on a flight. The food is part of a big immersion. All the décor points to Asia.
Food duly eaten, we meet up with some friends.
A three hour play is soon at hand. I am suspicious it will keep my son entertained for three hours, as well as engaging myself. It won’t be like the circus. We troop like a group of pilgrims to our seats.
Sat in front of us, is a man with a well shaped beard, who looks like he could be Sigmund Freud. I often think theatre goers, or art gallery goers can sometimes be equally as interesting as the events people are about to watch. There are a few theatrical types dotted about.
Before the three hours finally begins, a man tells us no phones, or pictures during he performance, and more surprisingly issues blankets, less the audience freeze to death. They are economizing on the heating or something like this. It’s probably a red herring, but it warms the audience up, before the long show.
I am not qualified to talk much about the show itself. I was playing catch up a lot to find out what was going on and missed some of the subtle nuances. A woman seemed central to the play., often spending time in a hospital bed, with a head full of dreams of a festival taking place on a Japanese island. Despite struggling with the language, or should I say languages, as it slipped from one to another, with French being predominant, it was the set and props, that really made an impression on me. The cast had to move the props about, at breakneck speed, almost like mechanics putting on new tyres during a Formula one race. It was hectic at times, lots of slapstick and political references. It was like somebody making a big soup, with endless ingredients, thrown in for good measure. There was a much needed twenty minute pause and the journey started up again.
The idea of this woman having a dream gave the play a sizeable creative licence. Like a dream it seemed endless, perhaps the audience would really need those blankets provided at the start. It did in the end finally come to a conclusion. Encore seemed to follow encore. The theatre has obviously found a strong niche and has an identity, which their aficionados have honed into. When I say it was over, well this is not strictly true.
Once the audience had congregated in the big hall, where there was the food, like a strike of lightening some kodo drummers began bashing their drums, immersing the audience once again with this strong Asiatic flavour. The theatre du soleil works on different levels, it is not your everyday theatre experience, it is more than this. It might not be to everybody’s taste, but even a philistine would have something to take away with them, be it the food or the power of the drummers, that arrived so expectantly.