Matilda Marseillaise turns 1 today!

Reading Time: 8 minutes

On 22 September 2017, Matilda Marseillaise was born. In the 12 months since her birth, she has taken you across Australia in research of all things French and francophone.

So in this article, we look back over her first year.


At the festival

Matilda Marseillaise has told you which shows you must see at arts festivals in all parts of Australia. She has written about MOFO in Tasmania, the festivals of WOMADelaide, Adelaide Festival and the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival and Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Matilda has also spoken to you about French festivals happening around the country like the Sunshine Coast French Festival, the Bastille Festival Sydney, the Bastille Festival Melbourne, Le Festival in Brisbane, Bonjour Barossa, the Adelaide French Festival and Shark Bay Rendezvous and So Frenchy So Chic – the festival which celebrates la joie de vivre française.



Linked to these festivals, Matilda Marseillaise has brought you interviews with musicians, a puppeteer, and theatre directors, among others. She has spoken with people both well-known as well as those not as well-known but equally interesting. She has interviewed francophones from across a diverse range of domains such as Paul Perrin from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Kiya Tabassian, founder and director of the ensemble, Constantinople, Dimitar Gugov from the group Violons Barbares from Canada, Melanie Walters who played “La Flute de Pan” at Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Canadian comedian Al LaFrance who spoke about his show “I think I’m Dead” and  Ronnie Burkett, Canadian puppeteer about his show “The Daisy Theatre” which played at Sydney Festival.


There were also an interviews about perfume with Samantha from The Powder Room who led Masterclasses on the subject at the Adelaide French Festival; the singer Abby Dobson from the group Baby et Lulu; Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard, the French aerial circus artist from Club Swizzle; Féfé who played at So Frenchy So Chic 2018. Matilda has also spoken with the principal ballerina from Ballet Preljocacj, a French ballet company, who was in Australia for their version of Snow White which played in Melbourne and in Sydney.

The evil Queen in Snow White – image by Jean Claude Carbonne


Eating and drinking

There have also been festivals all about food and drink offerings: Effervescence champagne festival , Moët Grand Day also on the subject; Masterclasses and other events from the Tasting Australia program and Good France, the worldwide French dinner.

At the movies

On a cultural note, she has spoken to you about French and francophone films at the Sydney Film Festival and at the Alliance Française French Film Festival. She has spoken to you about an Australian film about life in France “Life is a very strange thing”, and about a film starring Omar Sy: Two is a Family. She had the pleasure of sharing her experiences of watching the film “Les Triplettes de Belleville” with the sounds reproduced live with Benoît Charest and his Terrible Orchestre de Belleville.


There was a lot more than film soundtrack to entertain our ears over the last 12 months. Matilda was lucky enough to interview the renowned Youssou N’Dour, who came to Australia for a concert at the Sydney Opera House and also for BluesFest. She has listened to and spoken with Australian artists who play French or French inspired music: Mélange à Trois, Baby et Lulu, and the very original Coconut Kids who translated Australian classic pub songs into French for their Adelaide Fringe show “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oui, Oui, Oui”. Well-known Australian singer Gotye presented a tribute to the Belgian Jean-Jacques Perrey at Sydney Festival. Caroline Nin took us on a trip to the Paris Lido with her show “Songs and Stories of the Paris Lido” that she performed at the Adelaide French Festival.

Youssou Ndour sitting on a step looking to camera


Francophone musicians from all around the world came for WOMADelaide, with Constantinople, the Violons Barbares and Lura among them.  Malian musicians Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba, played to a very enthusiastic crowd at the Sydney Festival.

Violons Barabares perform at WOMADelaide in March 2018. Image by Matilda Marseillaise


Matilda got to speak with French rapper Féfé while he was in Australia performing “showcases” to publicise So Frenchy So Chic 2018.


For a more theatrical kind of music, there was also Bizet’s opera “The Pearl Fishers” performed by the State Opera of South Australia.


Matilda was lucky enough to see Ballet Preljocacj’s production of “Snow White”, which played at the Sydney Opera House and in Melbourne. For a ballet with an even larger difference, crowds were treated to Gratte Ciel’s aerial ballet “Place des Anges” which covered WOMADelaide in tons of white feathers.


Let’s run away to the circus

Place des Anges, was a show of quasi ballet, quasi circus which leads nicely into other physical performances such as  “Club Swizzle” and the Cirque de Soleil’s arena spectacular “Toruk – The First Flight” inspired by James Cameron’s film “Avatar”. Matilda got to speak with francophone performers from these shows.


A night at the theatre

There was also theatre with Camus’ Caligula performed in English, “The Great War” a Dutch show based on letters from a French soldier in the trenches during the war. The show “The Far Side of the Moon” impressed us with its innovative set and Yves Jacques’ talent performing alone on stage during the entire show. We learned about the story of the very interesting Julie d’Aubigny, in the show “Deviant Women – Julie d’Aubigny”. And we got to see a puppet show that was most definitely not for children with the show “The Daisy Theatre” by Canadian Ronnie Burkett at the Sydney Festival.

Schnitzel from “The Daisy Theatre” ready for bed. Image by Prudence Upton

Schnitzel from “The Daisy Theatre” ready for bed. Image by Prudence Upton


Just for laughs!

We laughed at French-speaking or faux French comedians such as Al La France with his show “I think I’m Dead”, Marcel Lucont, and the show Cyranose, from which we spoke to Richard Maritzer, all of which performed at the Adelaide Fringe.


John Russell ‘Mrs Russell among the flowers in the garden of Goulphar, Belle-Île’ 1907 oil on canvas 79 x 100 cm Musée d’Orsay, Paris, held by the Musée de Morlaix, bequest of Mme Jouve 1948 “John Russell, Australia’s French impressionist” exhibition.



There weren’t just performing arts either. Impressionist art was prominent in exhibitions in Australia. There was the very well received “Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay” which was in Adelaide for 4 months and we got to speak with Paul Perrin, one of the exhibition curators from the Musée d’Orsay the day before the exhibition opened. Currently on in Sydney, another French impressionist art exhibition is on but this time, the paintings are those of an Australian who studied and lived in France: “John Russell: Australia’s French Impressionist”.

Claude Monet: La Pie which was shown in Adelaide for the Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay exhibition


We also got to speak with Camille Chaumette and Agnès Mabille, exhibition curators while they were in Australia for the small exhibition of paintings by French photographer Michael Setboun. The photos comprised his “Paris Dark Light” exhibition and stayed in Adelaide for the weekend of the Adelaide French Festival in January.

France. Paris. 4th district. quai d Orleans along the seine river , on saint louis island. in the distance Notre dame Cathedral / Quai d orleans sur l ile saint Louis,


Another important exhibition of French works was that of Cartier: The Exhibition, which was on at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra for a few months. Cartier Jewels dazzled the crowds.

HM Queen Elizabeth II
(wearing the Cartier diamond necklace
gift from the Nizam of Hyderabad for her wedding in 1947), 1953


Special days

Matilda Marseillaise helped you celebrate the special days such as La Chandeleur and La Galette des Rois as well as the French, Belgian and Swiss National Holidays (sorry Québécois – I will include yours next year!) She also shared ideas for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.


Let’s drink champagne

And because no celebration is complete without champagne, Matilda let you know about all the events on the subject. She spoke to you about Champagne Fest at the National Wine Centre and of her experiences at its masterclasses. Matilda told you how and where to celebrate the Grand Moët Day in Sydney and Melbourne. She invited you to diners with a champagne focus such as the Mumm and Perrier-Jouet dinner or festivals which celebrate champagne like Effervescence which was on last month.

Champagnes and Sparkling wines enjoyed at the Masterclass at Champagne Fest 2017



And if we have champagne, then we also have wine, and events or even just places dedicated to it. Matilda spoke to you about the event comparing New and Old World wines, a night celebrating rosé called 15 Shades of Rosé and Rosé Royale, a bar dedicated to rose-tinted wine which opened in Sydney last year – and she spoke to its founder. More recently, Matilda encouraged you to try the new French cocktail inspired range from Australian brand Sofi Spritz.


The World Cup

And Matilda told you where to catch all of the French or Belgian World Cup Matches – even if they were played in the middle of the night Australian time. And of course, we all know that France won, which gave us yet another reason to celebrate!


La cuisine française

French cuisine has also had its moment. Matilda has spoken to you about Good France – the worldwide French dinner and about French restaurants awarded among the top 500 Australian restaurants according to the Australian Financial Review.


What have been your favourite moments over the last year? What subjects would you be interested in reading about over the next year?


Gratte Ciel’s “La Place des Anges”, a French aerial spectacular, will transform Botanic Park for WOMADelaide

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This weekend Botanic Park will be transformed nightly into a white wonderland as angels appear above the crowd for WOMADelaide. French company, Gratte Ciel (which means skyscraper in English) will perform its show “La Place des Anges” between the trees of Botanic Park.

You can read about other artists in WOMAD line-up here and purchase tickets here.

I spoke with Stephane Girard, Artistic Director at Gratte Ciel.


What was your background before becoming Artistic Director at Gratte Ciel?

I come from a mountain culture. I lived in the Alps for 15 years, in a region where we did a lot of climbing and cave exploration. The techniques that we use in the La Place des Anges, come from mountain climbing and we used those rope techniques from Alpism to serve in the 3rd dimension, in the sky, because the rope allows us to move in external dimensions, which are not those of a stage in a tent and allows us, especially, to move in the sky. So from the moment where we wait for the rope in the sky, it’s as if we can be close to the sky to mark the places in which the acrobats are going to slide, dance with dramatic movement, which is that it will be very fast, or very slow, all while suspended in air.


And have you also done that or have you always been on the artistic direction side?

I practiced climbing for a very long time but I have always done it in parallel to performances because I have always wanted to use the technique to serve a sensitivity of movement or to be able to create the sensation of being in the air near the audience.


How long have you been with Gratte Ciel?

Gratte Ciel is a company which has been doing this production for 5 years but we created the show, Pierrot Bidon and I, 10 years ago and we have worked with some of the rope performance artists in the team together for 25 years.


Describe La Place des Anges for us.

The show La Place des Anges is a bit like a big joke, as if a clown appears in the sky with his suitcase, placing his feet like a monkey in a tree. So, he places his feet like a monkey in a tree, while stumbling his suitcase will open and from his suitcase feathers will fall. Then another character will arrive with an umbrella and he too will release some feathers. Little by little, it’s like a group of friends, who are angels, appear above the audience, dispersing a few feathers just to see the audience’s reaction, like a surprise. Then there will be more and more feathers and more and more feathers until we have completely filled the sky with a storm of feathers. It’s a show which is about fraternity and then also a pacifist allegory. It’s as if the tonne of feathers was a tonne of tenderness from the angels spread onto the audience.



Do you pick up the feathers for the next show or do they stay on the ground?

No, we don’t pick them up. They stay on the audience who pick them up – people play with them and then they put them in their pocket. People often tell me that the feathers – there’s always a little handful that they take home and put in a little corner – in a chimney, on a little table as a souvenir they will keep for years.


How many kilogrammes of feathers are you bringing with you to Australia?

4 tonnes for the 4 shows. These are feathers that are used in winter clothing or quilts. We have changed the utilisation for these feathers to create a show.


How many people are in and behind the scenes for the show?

The team is 32 people – there are 16 acrobats in the air on the ropes. The others are technicians and the production team.


What are the challenges in travelling with such a show with so many people, 4 tonnes of feathers, the ropes and all of that?

The principal challenge is that in each place, the show is the same in its duration and the same in what it tells but the installation of the ropes is going to be very different because when we are in the city we attach the ropes to buildings. In the case of WOMADelaide, we are going to be in Botanic Park so it is an environment of trees – so it’s like the demography, the décor isn’t chosen by us but is imposed by the place where we work so we have to re-write the show technically to be able to find the soul of the performance with a technical situation which is always different. It’s such that we don’t say “we are going to play in Adelaide”; we speak of “the experience of Adelaide”. Like in each city, it’s a unique experience because we are going to be higher or lower, the grounds are bigger or smaller, we are going to be closer to the audience… It’s a bit like a piece of jazz – in each moment there is a bit of improvisation – except that the improvisation is worked upon – but there is a large part of uniqueness each time. That is to say that the audience that is going to see the show in Adelaide will be different to the audience that will have seen it in Perth or in London or in Arles. The emotion will stay the same but the visual experience will be different.


How long will it take to install the ropes etc. in Botanic Park in Adelaide?

We need 4 days to install.


You are going to Perth?

No, we have played in Perth.


So this time in Australia it’s only WOMADelaide that you’re coming to?

Yes, that’s absolutely right.


How do you manage acrobat’s injuries if they happen?

There are no injuries. We have never had one – because we take a lot, a lot of time to do things little by little and we have protocols so that things are done step by step to be very prudent. Plus there is a great deal of experience amongst the team – the pillars of the team have worked together on the ropes for 25 years and we have never had an accident. The goal is not to push the limits to the extreme – it’s to be very comfortable with what we are doing in the air. We are not going to show something spectacular or dangerous to the audience but we are going to show something with which we are very comfortable to come closer to touching a magical side.


And in your team, how old are the youngest and eldest?

The youngest is 18 and the oldest is 52.


What does the show evoke in the crowd?

It’s a pacifist allegory. That is to say that it is a show where the feathers – it’s like we poured a tonne of tenderness, a tonne of love, and the audience is underneath a storm of beauty and softness. They will look at their neighbor with a different view. They will be transported by this euphoria and at the end of the show, people kiss and take each other in their arms. Elderly people cry having the impression they are reliving their childhood, children have wide curious eyes because they see the happiness and happy shouting of the adults. The emotions are that strong.


Image: Gratte Ciel


Why should people come to see the show?

It’s a unique experience. The show is short but we remember it for the rest of our lives. It’s true, it’s not publicity. This isn’t simply a show, it’s an experience of life’s happiness.


Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Yes, I think that it is important to know that the aerial dimension in which we work, and especially the simplicity with which the artists fly through the air then come down close to the audience, breaks down the barrier between the performers and the audience. We change the relationship that the audience can have with the artists and it’s significant because the performers come from underneath trees from 50 metres in height to 200 metres in distance and at the same time they come down to have individual rapport with the audience. Therefore we are completely changing what audiences are used to perceiving in a traditional show.


See La Place des Anges nightly at WOMADelaide this weekend.