From 3 – 21 October, the 2018 edition of Melbourne Festival will be on. Over 4 nights, France’s Compagnie Carabosse will light up Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens in a way never seen before. We had a chat to Compagnie Carabosse.
Tell us about the show “Fire Gardens”
La Compagnie Carabosse was created more than 20 years ago and has been working with fire ever since. We are the only company that proposes an ignited journey in public spaces and which allows such proximity, in total security, with the flame.
Fire Garens is a unique project, especially written for the site, in order to magnify it and to give it a new perspective. To let the colour show through, that of the flame… That of Carabosse…
We have been working on this Melbourne Festival project since 2016 with the Festival’s team and we fell for the charm of the Royal Botanic Garden. When we visited it last year, we knew straight away that it would be the perfect place to carry out this project. Even more so because history comes in to play as a long time ago, gardens were the meeting place of 5 tribes which me around a fire.
You will be in Australia again for the Melbourne Festival in October. How many times has La Compagnie Carabosse been to Australia?
La Compagnie Carabosse has built strong connections with Australia. We discovered Australia in 2000 when the Awesome Festival in Perth invited us to come and create Fire Gardens.
Then in 2003-2004, we created another show, Nomad’s Land, with the Australian company, Bambuco. The show was screened in France and in Australia. We will actually be catching up with our friends from Bambuco in Melbourne this year.
And we have been welcomed a number of times at WOMADelaide in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2017. It is always a pleasure to show our work to Australian audiences.
I think I saw Fire Gardens at WOMADelaide in 2017. Of all the places in which you have installed this show, which is your favourite?
Careful! Each installation of Fire Gardens is unique because it is specifically imagined for each site. The installation that we created in 2017 at WOMADelaide has nothing to do with the one that we have written for Melbourne Festival. You can see 10 Fire Gardens one after the other and discover new things each time.
It is really difficult to answer this question because we have a number of different artists responsible for the projects so different ways of approaching and feeling things. It depends on the place, the personalities, the moments, the meetings… Some conjure up the Hué bridge in Vietnam for the emotion shared with its inhabitants, others speak about the Pont du Gard in France because of the architectural grandeur of the site, for others it’s the Dornbirn Canyon in Austria because of the technical feat, but there is also Château de Fontainebleau or Kremlin Square in Moscow for the experience of Fire Gardens in the snow.
As we already mentioned, when we visited the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne, we were swept away by its charm. Perhaps the Fire Gardens of Melbourne will be in our top 3 preferred sites.
Will you visit other Australian cities while you are here?
No, this year we won’t have the time to visit other Australian cities.
How much of the year are you on tour?
We are on tour all year round! Whether it be our latest show Par les temps qui courent (“As time goes by”) which acts out our travels and our questions about the world or our Fire Gardens which can be installed in summer as in winter.
What are the challenges in producing such a show – climate being the first of which I think – what do you do if it rains?
There are not that many challenges in producing Fire Garden. From the moment where an organiser wants to welcome us, we are available and agree on the artistic project, and the technical and financial aspects, everything is possible.
It’s true that the question of security is more and more present and complex in France but this difficulty isn’t present (yet!) in Europe or internationally.
As far as the weather is concerned, the conditions must be really, really bad. Rain or wind won’t prevent us from lighting the fire but a storm with strong wind gusts or rain would make it impossible.
How do you prevent injuries in the team?
Quite simply because we are professionals who pay very close attention to safety and we have more than 20 years of experience.
With the size of your installations – do you bring everything you need for the structures with you?
We cross the oceans and arrive with tons of pots of fire, our wax and our metal structures and we want it to be a magical moment for our spectators.
More specifically, to come to Melbourne we have filled 45 containers at the beginning of August which have been sent by boat: 30 palettes of fire pots (being 6270 fire pots), tons of metal structures and many automatons and fountains.
Does the word “Carabosse” have a specific meaning?
Carabosse is a naughty, hunchbacked and ugly fairy… As we like to provoke and question, we chose the name of a fairy who incarnates ugliness and meanness to tell beautiful stories, in a poetic and sometimes humorous manner.
How many people are in the team of Cie Carabosse?
The Compagnie Carabosse team is large. This year, we are working with 50 or so artists, constructors and technicians depending on the size of the project. For Melbourne, we will be 19 artists plus local technicians to help us with the set up and lighting up of the show.
Are you all pyromaniacs?!
NO! Absolutely not. To the contrary, our priority is the security of audiences, of our teams and of the sites. When we set a pot of fire alight, we are very vigilant and careful about what is around us and about what we are doing. As proof, we have very good relationships with the firemen who appreciate the quality of our work.
Did you study to become fire artists?
Not really; passion in what we do is enough. In our teams, we have different profiles and people who come from very different horizons. That’s what makes up the richness of our company.
Obviously, you need to be sensitive to artistic matters and not be afraid of fire but the doors are open, we wish to pass on our work to new generations so that our work will continue to travel around the world.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
A big thank you to all of the Melbourne Festival team who have allowed us to share this experience with you.
Dates and tickets
10 – 13 October with the choice of 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 pm time slots and the recommendation to allow an hour to experience the whole installation.
Tickets cost $25 and are available here.
Have you ever seen any of Compagnie Carabosse’s work before?