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…
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.
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!
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
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!
- Full Price: $55
- Concession: $45
- Child: $35
- Family: $160
- Schools: $30
- Companion Card: Free