L’Enfant Qui @ Bristol Old Vic Review

L’Enfant Qui comes to Bristol as part of the Circus City Festival, a show created by France/Belgium based company Theatre D’Un Jour (or ‘T1J’).  Their self-proclaimed manifesto of ‘What is the role of man in this world?’, a theme that informs the vast majority of their projects, is here analysed through the eyes of a small child lost in the woods, and the things that happen there.

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The opening of the show sets the tone of what is to come; a simple act of burying an axe into a block of wood, while initially perplexing, is swiftly developed into an imaginatively executed piece of physical theatre.  As with many circus shows, the language of the piece is action, rather than speech, but a more inventive exploration of meaning would be difficult to find in even the most imaginative written poetry.  Each new endeavour is executed with an unshakeable confidence, such that, while the audience is excited by witnessing expert performers being stretched to the very limit of their considerable skill, one feels complete faith in their ability to deliver without accident.  On the whole, it continues the story from moment to moment, with the diminutive form of our young champion scuttling forward to pick up any slack.

In the journey of the child, we see the company’s appreciation of nuance and subtlety within a narrative, blurring conventional lines and usurping expectations set up in the performance itself. The puppeteer, Morgane Aimerie Robin, far from attempting to subsume her own character to that of her ward, becomes an active participant in the work, providing an almost mother like figure to the young protagonist, before the illusion of the puppet itself is finally usurped in its turn.  Even Florence Sauveur, the cellist who provided the hauntingly atmospheric music for the entire piece, completes a rendition of the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 while performing some startlingly impressive acro-balances of her own.

The show is, all things considered, excellent – a sifting, elegant, heartfelt piece of work that combines a flawless mastery of circus skills with nuanced and engaging subject matter. If I have one criticism, it would be that, like a lot of modern circus, the show is still feeling its way between the balance of spectacle and narrative, between form and function; while a general feel for the narrative is clear, the actual significance of events sometimes feels to the way side in appreciation for the beauty of circus.  That said, these pieces are very beautiful, and I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of the work is relevant and focused.  Furthermore, this is certainly an area of constant and exciting development within the theatre world, and we can rest easier in the knowledge that the exploration is being carried forward by talented creatives like T1J. 4/5

Review written by James Adams.

L’Enfant Qui was shown at the Bristol Old Vic until from Sunday 18th until Monday 19th October. For more information on Theatre D’Un Jour, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop