Phia Ménard is the Artistic Director of French circus company Cie Non Nova. Two of their shows are coming to Adelaide this year. First of all l’Apres-midi d’un foehn version 1 will be performed at the Adelaide French Festival this weekend and another from the same trilogy, Foehn will be performed at the Adelaide Festival in March.
We spoke to Phia about the shows, their creation and her circus background.
You’re coming to Adelaide in January and again in March for two festivals with your two shows “L’après-midi d’un foehn” and “Foehn” . The title “L’après-midi d’un foehn” is a play on words changing “faune” from the title of the song by Debussy to the word “foehn”, which is the name of a hot wind found in Marseille as well as in the alpine regions of France. Where did the idea for this play on words come from?
Foehn is indeed the name given to a trans-Alpine wind.
The show’s subject is manipulated by air, and dances and swirls around to the music of Claude Debussy, an inescapable reference to the work of the composer called “L’après-midi d’un faune” which was in turn inspired by the poem of the same name by Mallarmé.
The name of the show is therefore a wink to the interaction between music and the wind – a major element of the show.
Where did the idea for this show come from?
The performance was born following a request from the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Nantes, in the framework of the Fête des Sciences, of which the 2008 theme was “movement” . The constraint was to present this form within the Museum enclosure, which does not usually host live shows.
Over time spending a night alone in the Museum, I quickly became interested in the Gallery of Evolution. The silence and immobility of all of these wild animals reunited in the same place struck me. Being conscient of the impossibility of such a situation in real life, to be in the presence of all of these live animals, I decide to work on a reflection of human being the creator, but also destructor.
Within the framework of the artistic project “I.C.E.” (Complementary unjugglability of the Elements), I started researching air and wind and got the idea to make the coats of these animals move with air propelled by fans, so as to bring them back to life.
The link is also forged with a familiar object from daily life, an object deprived of humanity, which produces an extreme level of pollution if it is not recycled: the plastic bag. The building of a likeable and gracious character from the moulding of a simple plastic bag, poses the intervention of humans, because it is him who makes the marionnette, and it’s also him who brings it to life.
Is there a political message about our use of plastic bags in the shows?
I don’t want the message to deliver a political message but each audience member can take the message they wish to, by letting their imaginations run wild!
What are the differences between the two shows “L’après-midi d’un foehn Version 1” and “Foehn”?
The trilogy of “Wind plays” comprises the shows “L’après-midi d’un foehn Version 1″, “Foehn“, and “Vortex“. “Foehn” and “L’après-midi d’un foehn Version 1″ are similar but they nonetheless have different dramaturgic writing.
Furthermore, the shows are performed by two different people.
Jean-Louis Ouvrard for “L’après-midi d’un foehn Version 1″ and Cécile Briand or Silvano Nogueira for “Foehn” . The length of the show is also different (25 minutes for “L’après-midi d’un foehn Version 1″ and 40 minutes for “Foehn”) as well as the required minimum age of audience members (from 5 years of age for “L’après-midi d’un foehn Version 1″ and from the age of 4 for “Foehn”).
If one has already seen one of the shows is the other a bit of the same thing?
The two shows have different writing, different sets and different performers. It is therefore interesting to go to both shows as they are different in a number of aspects.
Is this a show which was aimed at children from the beginning?
The show is aimed at all people, adults and children from the age of 5. It was not created especially for children but it is often programmed and aimed at a young audience because the length is short and the aesthetic is very visual.
You studied juggling, circus and modern dance before creating the Cie Non Nova in 1998. Since which age have you been interested in performing arts?
It was upon discovering the show “Extraballe” by Jérôme Thomas in 1991, at the age of 20, that I started wanting to train in the arts and in particular in juggling. I then took courses in contemporary dance, mime and acting as well as of course juggling. From 1994, I studied the techniques of juggling and composition under the Master Jérôme Thomas, and then I set up the company to perform the creation “Hic Hoc“.
It was in wandering the continents with this team and through the various encounters that I fed with my desire to write and heightened my look at contemporary art forms. Artist, improviser, I created a number of shows for the company until 2003: “Le socle”, “le Banquet”, “Hic-hoc”, “4” , “qu’on en finisse une bonne fois pour toutes…”.
In parallel in 1997, I followed the teachings of dance and performed two short pieces choreographed by Hervé Diasnas and Valérie Lamielle.
Why did you create Cie Non Nova?
In 1998, I founded the company Non Nova with a desire to take a look at the dread of juggling, and of its scenic and dramaturgic treatment.
“Non nova, sed nove” (We don’t invent anything, we look at it differently) is a founding precept.
For its multi-disciplinary projects, the company brings together artists, technicians, thinkers from all backgrounds and of various experiences. It isn’t a collective but a professional team of which I provide artistic direction.
You travel the world with your shows. To which countries have you been?.Will the Adelaide French Festival be your first time in Australia?
To date, Compagnie Non Nova’s shows have been played in Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Libya, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mali, Mexico, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the Federation of Russia, the United Arabs Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, Togo, Uruguay, Yemen, etc.
Yes, it will be the first time that Compagnie Non Nova’s shows will be performed in Australia!
Is it typical for two of your shows on the same theme to be played in the same festival with only a few months between them?
No, it’s not typical but it can happen. For example in February 2019 in Douai (France),the shows “Foehn”; “L’après-midi d’un foehn Version 1″ and “Saison Sèche” will be performed in the same city with only a few days between them.
By chance, the two festivals in Adelaide invited us in the same year and we are very happy about it!
Why should we come to see “L’après-midi d’un foehn” at the Adelaide French Festival and “Foehn” at the Adelaide Festival?
For audiences, it is a very good way of discovering Non Nova’s universe and to experience works on the subject of wind by the company.
Anything else to add?
The company Non Nova is very happy to come to Australia soon and we hope to find a lot of you at our two shows performed in Adelaide in 2019!
You can see L’Apres-midi d’un foehn this weekend at the Adelaide French Festival. There will be three shows on Saturday 12 January and on Sunday 13 January: 11am, 12:30pm and 2pm.
Tickets cost $25 for adults and $15 for children. There is also a family ticket (two adults and two children) which costs $65.
You can purchase your tickets here.
Foehn will be performed at the Adelaide Festival from 13 to 17 March:
- Wed 13 Mar, 11:00am, 6:30pm
- Fri 15 Mar, 11:00am, 6:30pm
- Sat 16 Mar, 11:00am, 2:00pm, 5:00pm
- Sun 17 Mar, 11:00am, 2:00pm, 5:00pm
Tickets cost $49 for adults, $25 for under 30s, and $20 for children. There are also reduced price tickets for “Friends of Adelaide Festival” or Concession card holders.
You can buy your tickets for Foehn here.