‘L’après-midi d’un Foehn’ – Company Non Nova | Edinburgh 2013
Company Non Nova was founded by Phia Ménard in 1998 with the desire to approach juggling from a new angle. In the magical ‘L’après-midi d’un Foehn – Version 1’, first performed in 2008, the human hand is placed at a distance from the juggled carrier bags. Instead they are manipulated through the controls of encircling electric fans, which create life and chance interactions.
The premise is beautifully simple, the effect surprisingly profound. A human figure (Jean Louis Ouvrard in today’s performance) slowly circles the central playing space, before coming to rest in front of two neatly laid out plastic bags. Slowly and purposefully, they are transformed with tape and scissors into the semblance of a man, the act of creation as mesmerising and vital as the finished form.
To a submarine soundscape, which evolves into birdsong and prehistoric animal noises, a man is born. As Ouvrard retreats behind a control desk and further neat stacks of coloured carriers, he begins to operate the fans that infuse the delicate plastic figure with breath, and it starts to rise and pirouette uncertainly centre stage.
The sounds of Debussy’s ‘Afternoon of a Faun’ signal humanity’s ascent, and the performance's title (translated as ‘Afternoon of a Foehn’) plays on this connection, as the show encompasses both the warmth and the disturbing psychological impact of the Foehn winds.
Ouvrard releases multi-coloured carrier-characters into the arena one by one, and they touch, spin and dance together, like children learning to skate. The fans fill them with air, and then they float back down to earth in conversations, confrontations, greetings and partings that could never be exactly replicated; a whimsical fantasia.
Again he enters the space, a god-like father figure whose children huddle around his ankles and sit about his shoulders. When he tires of his creation and sees them as mere plastic-bags to be shredded and torn, the impact is devastating. But hope lives on.
These 25 short minutes are filled with wonder and pathos, and I’m left wiping my eyes and wanting more. A must see innovation in elemental animation.
Artistic direction, choreography and scenography – Phia Ménard
Assisted by – Jean Luc Beaujault
Sound composition – Ivan Roussel, using Claude Debussy’s ‘Afternoon of a Faun’
Sound master – Claire Fesselier (alternatively with Ivan Roussel/Olivier Gicquiaud
Stage manager – Olivier Gicquiaud