Oh sweet, sweet sexiness! There’s darkness in this pandemic-themed, pandemic-era production from the circus collective Les 7 Doigts (The 7 Fingers) but, for me, the overriding experience is about the spectacular joys of embodiment and connection.
Through The Cultch, Out of Order is only available online until March 21, so read this quickly then book your tickets.
In the opening black-and-white footage, circus performers enter a humble striped tent. Text that appears over the images reads, “This is the story of a show with no audience, art with no spectator, culture with no gathering … The world is upside down, the circus is out of order.” Inside the tent, the scruffily dressed ringmaster addresses an imaginary crowd: “You seek communion. You hope to share a laugh, perhaps a moment of awe. We are humbled by your gesture and offer you our most ‘un-essential’ work.”
Then the company launches into a series of acts.
For me, the most satisfying include Antino Pansa, dressed in gold, performing on the slack wire. He balances. He somersaults. As he walks across the wire, he makes it swing back and forth underneath him dizzyingly as his upper body stays still.
I also loved a “fundraising” sequence in which the bids for auction items, including a 12-year-old boy named Arnaud, are mirrored by acrobats Mikael Bruyere and Éline Guélat who go up and up on vertical poles — and then slide back down (when it’s revealed that Arnaud’s best friend has Covid, for instance). The strength and flexibility are dazzling. Who knew a body could scale and cling to an object in so many ways?
And Bruyère is a knockout in an act in which all sorts of folks go flying through the air after being catapulted off a teeter-totter. He’s like the most amazing freestyle skier — without skis.
Not all of the material reaches this level. At the beginning, there’s a song about an unlucky marquise that goes on long after its resonance as a metaphor for Covid losses has worn out. And there’s an act by the questionably-named Sisters of Siam (two white-presenting women) who contort languorously under a sheet of clear plastic, lovingly lit from behind. Meh.
But, as directed by Isabelle Chassé and Gypsy Snider, shot by DOP Frédéric Barrette and Brin Schoellkopf, and edited by Francisco Cruz, there’s a beguiling sensuality that never waivers.
Out of Order is far from being a static document of a circus performance; it’s dynamic, colourful, expressionistic. I’ll admit that there were times when I wanted a wider frame — so I could see just how high the juggling clubs were going, for instance. Mostly, though, I loved feeling like I was right in the pocket with the performers, intimately close, then pulling back so that I could see the patterns and swirls of movement.
There’s a song that brought tears to my eyes. Written by company member Colin Gagné, the chorus begins, “We will find a way back from it all.” Two couples, one male-male, one female-male, perform hand-to-hand acrobatics. The individuals in each couple embrace one another tenderly, then the heftier partners lift the lighter ones with ferocious strength, tossing them about, achieving spectacular balances.
Many times during this hour-long performance, the sensuality was so full I almost felt like I was being physically touched. That’s a big gift, especially these days.
OUT OF ORDER Created and produced by The 7 Fingers. Directed by Isabelle Chassé and Gypsy Snider. Viewed online March 18. Available until March 21. Tickets.
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