Les Commandos Percus bring their show Silence! to Adelaide Fringe 2023

Reading Time: 7 minutes
International street arts company Les Commandos Percu is coming to Australia to present their show Silence! at Adelaide Fringe 2023 next month. We spoke to Audrey Itier, Production Administrator at Les Commandos Percu. Read our interview with her below.
Les Commandos Percu - Silence!
Image: (c) Numéro Six Photography

Les Commandos Percu is an international street arts company that existed since 1994. How was the company founded?

The company was created by Raymond Gabriel based on the observation that the public was going to see concerts in halls less and less. He came up with the idea of going to meet the public where they are, i.e. in the street, and to surprise them with instruments that you won’t find anywhere else because we create them ourselves. This is where our formula “rhythm, movement, fire” comes from. Our aim is clear: to reach out to the audience, to abolish the stage, or rather to integrate the entire space as a space for creation.

 

Your percussions and your pyrotechnic know-how have travelled the world and you’re coming to Adelaide Fringe in Australia this February with your show Silence! Is this your South Australian première? I think you may have been to Perth Festival with your mobile intervention called “Radeaux humains” (Human Rails).

We have indeed performed in Australia before. The first time was in 2006, when we performed Le Concert du Feu “The Fire Concert” at the Sydney Festival, and then in 2013, when we performed Très Méchant(s) “Very Nasty” at the Perth International Arts Festival, with volunteers trained a few days before to participate in the show alongside the company’s musicians. But this will be the first time we have performed ‘Silence!’ in Australia.

 

How long have you been planning to bring this show to Australia?

We started negotiations in July 2021 to participate in the 2022 edition of the festival, which was postponed to 2023 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After this very long wait, we are now looking forward to being there and meeting the FRINGE Festival audience in Adelaide!

 

The show Silence! is not at all silent. Tell us a little about what audiences can expect from this show?

With the show Silence!, Les Commandos Percu invent a storm of sounds and of fire. Between two notes, between two drum beats, silence releases all its strength. What will happen? What will happen next? Was there a countdown, an explanation given for this darkened horizon? Someone has shouted: “Silence! No matter: time is now suspended, everything stands still. Then a dull roll rises from the depths until it becomes an immense crash, a rain of metal fills the whole space, lightning invades the sky. The murmur of the drums becomes a clamour pulsating with a beat that no one can resist…

Silence!
Image: Silence! – Fes’art Libourne – (c) V.Balège

Between the loud noises of the drums and the fireworks, there is silence. Is the show a sort of meditation?

The title of this show was inspired by a quote by Franck Zappa, which could almost be described as philosophical: “music is silence that is distorted”. It is on this subject that one could meditate at length…

 

According to the Adelaide Fringe website, the show goes for 4 hours. Is this true or will the show be repeated several times during the 4 hours?

The show lasts 45-50 minutes and there will only be one performance each night. We don’t have all the information yet, but I think there will be 2 other shows that will be presented between the time the doors open and the time of our show.

 

What was the inspiration for Silence!?

The idea of the show came from The idea for this show came from several questions: How to transform the energy of chaos into a vital impulse? How to create when everything collapses, when there is nothing left? How to react to constraint with ingenuity?

 

The challenge is not to make Les Commandos Percu the first post-apocalyptic percussion group, but to return to the fundamentals of the company: to observe and recycle the materials and sounds of the world to reinvent a living music, incarnate in a show, made of flesh and sweat.

 

What is your first love? Pyrotechnics or music?

The answer is obvious: music! Making our own instruments has “isolated” us in an imaginary culture, as if we came from a distant land, saving us from having to copy music and cultures that were not our own. Two sticks, a few “tricks” on which we can create sound colours, simple or incredibly complex things, to imagine the framework of a show, to find the pleasure in sharing, to make bodies move, to seek trance: the world of rhythm is immense.

 

The result is our own rhythms and sounds, a whole universe patiently assembled, an infinite number of combinations, pulsations, polyrhythms, but also a story to tell, an intention, a path strewn with pyrotechnic surprises: a real watchmaker’s job!

 

What amuses us most is extending the sounds to transform them into lights and sparks.

Silence!
Image: Silence ! – Fes’art Libourne – (c) V.Balège

 

What has been your journey so far?

The company has been in existence for almost 30 years, and we have created many shows that have taken us all over the world, to all continents.

 

Adelaide’s temperatures can rise into the 40s in the summer, how do you protect yourself from such temperatures when you are surrounded by fire? What are the challenges of putting on such a show in the summer in a country known for bush fires?

We are experiencing the same climatic phenomenon in Europe, where summers are getting hotter and hotter, and the risks are getting higher. But all of our team has a fireworks certificate, and fire safety measures are reinforced.

 

How many people are on stage?

There are only 5 people on stage, but the movements and the shifts may suggest that there are many more! This is also part of the surprise effect.

 

How have you adapted your shows to more environmentally aware audiences and ever-changing technology?

This show aims to draw attention to and make the audience think about environmental issues. It encourages the audience to question the future and to ask themselves: “How can we create when everything is falling apart? What will we do when there is nothing left?

 

Moreover, our shows are 6 to 7 times less polluting than traditional fireworks because we use less active material. We are also careful about recycling the waste that our shows generate and we leave the site as clean as before we arrived!

Image: Silence ! – Fes’art Libourne – (c) V.Balège

What is your creative process?

The creative process is quite long. It all starts with a desire, an intention, in other words, what message do we want to convey through the show. A long period of reflection and musical creation follows, then comes the stage direction and pyrotechnical writing phase. We also have the need to be constantly evolving, which means that the show ‘Silence’ that you see at Adelaide Fringe will not be exactly the same as the one you saw at the Sziget Festival for example. After each performance we spend a lot of time analysing what happened, the comments of the audience or the organisers. Our shows are never static, in the sense that we are always looking for the best possible performance.

 

How long does it take to create a show like Silence!?

The creation of Silence! required several months of work, between the musical composition, the pyrotechnical writing, directing and building décor.

 

Apart from people who don’t like loud noises, is Silence! for all audiences?

Absolutely, this show is for all audiences. Even people who don’t like noise can come to the show, placing themselves at the back of the crowd or wearing adapted hearing protection for example. Some will appreciate the music more, others the pyrotechnics, the sensations provided by the percussion and the fire, or again the staging, but in general feedback from audiences is unanimous in their experience of the show

Silence!
Image: (c) V.Balège

Why should people come see Silence! at Adelaide Fringe?

The energy of the perucssion combined with that of the fire is quite simply fascinating, as if we are touching something essential. Nature’s forces seem to want to express themselves through what we do, as If we were volcanologists holding the audience by the hand to look at the base of the crater. Higher, in the night, stars and coloured forms make us more so astronomers faced with starry canvases. The grinding of the drums, sweaty bodies in the smoke and ask form like a grand wild ritual.

 

Plus, our musical and pyrotechnical know-how is quite unique in the world, and feedback from audiences are our largest reward! People write to us often after our shows to thank us, it’s very powerful…

 

At a large festival in Europe, an audience member came up to us and said the most wonderful compliment: “I think you inspire people. You make them want to invent something, as if everyone had a seed to germinate, as if you were proof that it is possible!”

 

We really want to share an exceptional moment with the audience, a kind of jubilant wildness, elementary and primordial joy!

KEY INFO FOR SILENCE!

WHAT: Silence!
WHERE: 5.30pm Friday 17 February – Sunday 19 February
WHEN: Elder Park, Adelaide
HOW: Buy your tickets through this link: https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/silence-af2023
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices (excluding booking fees) are as follows:
  • Full Price: $55
  • Concession: $45
  • Child: $35
  • Family: $160
  • Schools: $30
  • Companion Card: Free
For all shows with French and francophone links at the Adelaide Fringe, click here.
For all events with French and francophone links happening around Australia this month, check out the What’s on in January.

Subscribe

Enter your email to subscribe to new article notifications about all things French and francophone in Australia

James Thierrée, grandson of Charlie Chaplin, presents ROOM at Sydney Festival

Reading Time: 10 minutes

James Thierrée is currently in Australia for Sydney Festival, where he is presenting his show ROOM. Grandson of Charlie Chaplin, and well-known by Sydney Festival audiences, his show is the escapism we’ve all been searching for throughout COVID times. Read on for our interview with James Thierrée.

James Thierrée presents ROOM at Sydney Festival

James, you’re at Sydney Festival, this time with your production simply named ROOM. Tell us a little about this show. What characterises ROOM?

I consider that this show, which is embodied by a room, speaks of a free room, a crazy room, a sort of joyful ode to theatrical language in all its forms: a lot through music, through the body, through the set, through the pleasure of storytelling. It was very important for me, after years of being rather fixated with this virus, to present to the public a show that breathes. A show that welcomes in its whirlwind individuals who have been separated and spaced apart from each other to say “let’s get together in a sort of crazy and enjoyable phase”.

 

You’ve already visited Australia, specifically Sydney Festival with your shows Au Revoir Parapluie and Tabac Rouge. For those who are familiar with those shows, how does ROOM compare? How is it similar and how does it differ from your previous shows?

Compared to my previous shows, ROOM really wanted to open doors and windows. It was the first time that I integrated live music and I worked very hard on this show because I wanted it to be a kind of declaration of love to musical instruments and to the pleasure of sharing this music which has accompanied me in all my productions but which was essentially broadcast as recorded music.

 

And for me, it was obvious that I wanted to put my hands on this essential engine, I would say almost narrative, of all my theatrical language which was music. So, there is really this sail that is inflated with air in ROOM and the air is the music. It’s really the beating heart of the show so it’s something that differentiates this show from my previous ones.

 

There is also the use of lyrics, which is not linked to the present but which have been liberated. I was essentially using a mute universe, which was very corporeal with magic that operated through the set, the lighting and the music but without words. But you could say that I invited words for the first time through humour and nonsense. I’m half English through my mother and English nonsense is very important in my shows. That is to say, this way of reversing the meaning of things and the kind and place of writing through surrealism. The words are like notes that accompany the music live and play with it.

James Thierrée presents ROOM at Sydney Festival
Image: Wendell Teodoro

 

The word “chaos” has been frequently used in reviews of ROOM. Is it chaos that you intend to create on stage?

Yes, I like chaos very much. I think that even when we don’t like chaos, chaos is in us. It is scientifically proven that chaos was essential to the formation of the universe. So, without being philosophical, I would say that I took a lot of pleasure in letting the elements of the show drift in and out and in playing with the audience’s expectation that we all have to follow the story, to understand the theme, to be able to place the things that we watch and listen to somewhere in the brain’s drawers. And I have to say that as a spectator, I really like to go and see shows that throw me off my guard, that challenge my expectations a bit. That is to say, yes, it is a surprise. It’s already a form of reaction to chaos. We’ll say that this is not the main theme of ROOM, which is, as we say, a show that is framed, but within this frame there is a positive, joyful chaos. A chaos with which we dance. I like that idea.

 

According to your Compagnie du Hanneton’s website your “inspirations are those of travel and performers encountered, of cultures that intersect.” How do these things inspire you?

Since I was very young, I have always loved the randomness of life and encounters. And in my life and in my work, I love coincidences, I love accidents. You could say that some of the ideas that come to life in my creations are driven by the accidents that I have become accustomed to causing. That is to say, to have an idea and not to accomplish this idea but to hope to get out of its path, which leads me to another much more interesting, much more unforeseen idea., Over the years, it has not improved. So yes, I do like encounters with other places and with other people. And if they come from even further away, it’s even better because it provokes positive shocks and wonderful amalgamations, you could say, and in work, it’s the same.

 

The desire in some way to be elsewhere. That famous destination that you had written down – that goal to reach. It’s somewhat important not to reach it entirely and to be delighted to discover the other thing you hadn’t planned. I know that this must not be very popular because we’re all about having a goal and reaching it. You can have dreams but dreams are fulfilling. Dreams should escape us a little bit, even if they should not turn into nightmares.

 

Were there any travels or encounters or specific cultures that inspired you in the writing of ROOM?

It’s difficult to answer this question, but I would say that there were many encounters in the year and a half that preceded the creation, even though it was greatly disturbed by COVID and had to be postponed. So, during this long period before the premiere of ROOM, I met a lot of people, dancers, especially musicians who came to my house and we made a lot of music during this year and a half.

 

Some of these people didn’t end up in the show because they didn’t have a place in the show, but some of them became friends and all of them – a good part of them at least, had a big impact on me because music was a new realm for me and I had magicians, magicians who stood in the path of my life and agreed to play with me and, in some way, introduced me to their secret. There are a few, it’s not a crowd – you can count them on the fingers of one hand – but I could say that these encounters were decisive in the feelings of freedom and audacity that I feel I was able to have in the creation of ROOM.

Image: Wendell Teodoro

ROOM is a relatively new production that premiered at the Théâtre de Carouge-Atelier de Genève in January 2022. What was the development/writing process of ROOM?

It’s a very long story and I won’t be able to answer [in full]. You’d almost have to write a whole article simply on the development of this project because it has been hit by obstacles and trials many times, and for me it’s a show that I feel very lucky to be able to have been able to present to the public, to be in Australia, in Sydney at this festival that I love very much and that has been associated with my work and supporting my work in some way for many years.

 

And for me, ROOM was a project in which I somehow refused to follow my usual know-how. One could say that after 40 years and a few productions, one begins to have habits, one begins to know how to make a show and it can be dangerous for an artist who begins to reproduce a kind of recipe and for me it was essential not to follow the beginnings of know-how that I felt I had.

 

I consider [the show] almost as a person in its own right that needed to have its own independence. It was very complicated because at the same time it was me who had to build and elaborate a rather important show – we do budgets, sets, casts. It was very ambitious. And at the same time, I wanted it to have the purity of a child’s game, of a primary game that was also wild and that had a form of independence from me and this famous know-how that I consider to be a cage in some ways.

 

It is really a very long process. I explained earlier that music has a central role. But I wanted to talk about my profession, about theatre, in some way. I wanted to talk to the audience about theatre and to make a show that would reopen the imagination around this unique place where we can still share something that will never happen again, because after each presentation the audience will never exist again. For me, it is a kind of crossroads project that should be generous with the audience after years of trials and tribulations, and for me, it should be a kind of springboard to keep the audacity, to keep the freshness, to keep a certain risk-taking on the proposal.

 

I have the impression that audiences need to feel that the artists in front of them are taking some kind of risk or at least not relying on routines, on know-how. As a result, I surrounded myself with extremely talented artists, musicians, dancers, actors and technicians too. We got through those COVID years a bit like samurais, a bit like warriors.

 

Sometimes we had the impression that we would never be able to present this show because it was interrupted several times during its creation. But finally, today at the Sydney Festival, we arrive exhausted but happy to have been able to present this show which was born in the middle of a huge crisis where people didn’t go to the theatre anymore. So, in a way, it’s a reunion with the public.

Image: Wendell Teodoro

Theatre and circus run in your veins with circus performers as parents and Charlie Chaplin as great-grandfather. You made your debut in your parents’ circus at the age of 4 with your older sister. Did you know from childhood that you would also follow a career in the arts as an adult?

You know, I was literally born in the mixing pot of theatre, on the boards. I saw my parents on stage – I was backstage – very early on – it’s among my earliest memories. So actually, somewhere along the line, it’s not even that I knew it, it’s that I didn’t ask myself the question. I was on a boat and I liked that boat and I still like that boat. I’ll go even further, I’m absolutely in love with this boat and I sincerely feel privileged to be able to do this job, to know that it’s a job, that it’s a craft and that somewhere along the line I received the tools and I’m lucky to have had these tools so young from my father and my mother who also practised this job in another way. And I continued in my own way. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s called transmission, it also happens in many trades, with woodworkers, with bakers, with all craftsmen, with all people who make things, who do good.

 

There are 11 of you on stage? Have you worked with any of these artists before this show? How did you meet each other?

They are artists I admire. For me, it’s very important to work with people I admire, people I want to explore with, to push further, to spend time with. It’s very special. It’s not a friendship in fact, it’s called an art friendship because somewhere along the line it’s extremely intense and each person is asked to give a lot in the name of an idea or in the name of a goal that is set. As I explained to you, ROOM was very topsy-turvy in its construction and also in its ambition so the artists had to hang on, to have faith, to know that in some way they could trust me to follow them in this adventure. I have a lot of affection and admiration for these artists. Each one is different.

 

None of the people who are in the show has never worked with me, so they had no habits and routines in the way of working. It was a discovery. Each person was a separate encounter, sometimes by audition, sometimes by the ricochet of life.

 

What can the audience expect from the ROOM show?

They must not expect anything! That’s not allowed. I don’t expect anything from the audience because the audience is a surprise. It’s very important to sit in a theatre and not to expect anything and not to know anything and to see what happens, and to see if you are going to be blown away by the wind, by the breeze or by the gust or if you are going to stay outside. This is a mystery and the excitement is very important as is the enthusiasm, but it is the mystery that allows for this. That is, the idea of going to see a show and not knowing exactly what it is, not being reassured in some way, it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. It’s a bit dangerous. If it gives you a few thrills, all the better.

Who is the ROOM show for?

Literally, it’s for everyone. Well, maybe a child under the age of 7 or 8 might feel a little bit out of place but otherwise all ages, all professions, all cultures, all social, cultural groups, absolutely everyone even animals can come if they want to. I know the Australian wildlife is beautiful. Insects, everyone is invited!

 

Why should people come and see the ROOM show at the Sydney Festival?

That’s a really trick question. I feel like a car salesman. But that’s the point – we’re not car salesmen. We’re artists and we’re coming from the other side of the world, the equipment took a boat in a huge container and took two and a half months to get to Sydney and we’ve been looking forward for months to getting somewhere under foot as we’re all from the west and just being part of this festival which I have a particular soft spot for, I love it, there’s something extremely festive about it, it’s always been a very intense experience. I hope that people will want to go out and discover an extremely joyful and lively and unexpected and also very strange proposal.

We thank James Thierrée for this interview. See below for how and when to see ROOM at Sydney Festival 2023.

 

KEY INFO FOR ROOM BY JAMES THIERRÉE

WHAT: ROOM by James Thierrée

WHEN: 20-22 & 24-25 January 2023

Fri 20 Jan, 7:30pm

Sat 21 Jan, 7:30pm

Sun 22 Jan, 5:00pm

Tue 24 Jan, 7:30pm (Auslan Performance)

Wed 25 Jan, 1:30pm

WHERE: Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, SYDNEY

HOW: Purchase your tickets via the Sydney Festival website https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/events/room

HOW MUCH:

Ticket prices (exclusive of booking fee) are as follows:

  • Premium Full Price – $129
  • A Reserve Full Price – $109
  • A Reserve Concession – $100
  • B Reserve Full Price – $79
  • B Reserve Concession – $70

 

For other events with French and francophone links at Sydney Festival, read this article.

For all events with French and Francophone links happening in Australia this month, click here

 

Subscribe

Enter your email to subscribe to new article notifications about all things French and francophone in Australia