Christmas is coming, so once again Brighton Dome is devoting its festive season to accessible, distinct, and physical art forms – this year it’s circus. Storming the stage (and often the air above) on Mon 26 – Fri 30 Dec are a French Canadian cirque sextet – Flip FabriQue. Their Catch Me! (Attrape-moi) is a vibrant show packed with a youthful enthusiasm which belies years of experience. “We are so grateful to be invited,” says creative director Bruno Gagnon. “It’s a great part of the year to be there.” The cast – Gagnon, Jérémie Arsenault, Christophe Hamel, Françis Julien, Hugo Ouellet Côté and Jade Dussault – all met while studying circus. The show celebrates their reunion after spending time away establishing individual careers. “It’s basically a retrospective on our real story. The company was created after not seeing each other for ten years, so the story is like our own.” These multi-disciplined performers have already toured the world with companies like Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Éloize, but now have formed a troupe with a single shared vision.
As a title, Catch Me! not only alludes to unspoken prayers amid this breath-taking aerial spectacle, but their need to stay in contact during those years apart. “We were working with big circuses, and sometimes we could catch up with each other in between cities somewhere.” On another level, the title brings comparisons with a child-like call to play. Indeed, the show’s narrative heatedly embraces the regression we occasionally succumb to when in the presence of old and cherished friends.
The company’s hometown of Quebec sits at the centre of a blossoming circus scene. Montreal’s École nationale de cirque is the only state-funded training facility on the whole continent. It’s little coincidence that Canada stands as one of the world’s best circus hubs. “I think it’s because there’s so much snow around the city. There’s a lot of mats everywhere, so we can jump and try tricks. There’s also a lot of trampoline gyms! Around the world, for the last 30 years, especially when Cirque du Soleil started to bring contemporary circus the way they do, a name’s been created for Canadian circus. It’s a brand that is building up.” Now Flip FabriQue have their own lively brand of cirque around the world. Visiting cities like Berlin, New York, Paris, and Edinburgh, since forming they’ve spent almost ten months a year touring and have performed more than 500 shows to date.
The troupe bring an infectious attitude and energy to the stage. Many of the skills in the show will be familiar, like juggling, strapwork, hooping, trampolining and even yo-yo, nearly all of them are imaginatively twisted to make them utterly spectacular. The Flip FabriQue members, some studying acrobatics since the age of seven, create a beautiful vision of youth and energy. But their versatility shines when they mix slapstick comedy amongst the daredevil feats. “It’s a friendly, light and really dynamic acrobatic circus show. We’re playing six friends who haven’t seen each other for a while.” The action sees them gather in a cottage, a stage element which itself becomes something to scramble over and jump from. “There’s a lot of games. We’re goofing around a lot…” Their collective memories are symbolised by photos from an old album, which are slowly placed across the set. As such proceedings are transported away from a display of skill and into more theatrical territory.
Flip Fabrique’s Catch Me! comprises dazzling aerial ballet, childish fun and almost super-human feats of agility. Of course, profound physical literacy is nothing if you don’t have complete trust in your fellow performers. Being old friends can provide more than mere companionship whilst on the road for long periods. “There’s no doubt about it. Trust is really important. It’s basically a tool that needs to be polished. When you work with the same group for a while you know each other and you respond to that. It makes it really nice.” This close relationship, together with sublime skill-sets, creates an irrepressible performance style.
So far, they’ve been touring this show for over four years, winning plaudits everywhere with their fresh ideas and powerful theatrical stylings. While it might be advancing the art-form, it inevitably means spending long periods away from home. But home is often where you make it. “We’re all friends, friends make family, so when we’re all together it’s good.” This is a group which has travelled around the world, receiving rapturous approval while celebrating the innate universal language of circus. It’s a situation which will provide inspiration for their next production, but for now they’re concentrating on bringing their poetic form of movement to Europe. “We are delighted to come to the UK again. We’re in France for 20 dates, before coming in to set-up. We have two days to celebrate the holiday, then on the 26th we’re up!”