Cirque Mandique c’est tres Magique!! Opening Roundhouse’s CircusFest this year was Guinean act Cirque Mandinque with their show Foté Foré (Black White). HM were front row and well slightly off centre for the show. Boy did it leave us stunned and amazed!
The lights are down in this expansive space that is an indoor big top. If it weren’t for the lack of the cricket drone you could imagine being in the dark of a small African village when in the distance comes the beat of the drum breaking the silence and alerting us to the spectacle that is yet to come. The drums are joined by a spotlight and then performer Regis Truchy appears with rolling suitcase in tow. And with that it was official CircusFest season at the Roundhouse had begun. Let the bewilderment commence!!
While the show was in the performers' native tongue we got the gist of the story in that a tourist is brought to the shores of Guinea and wonders at its people, places and culture. Experimenting for himself and finally being accepted by its people before embarking on his return journey home. Seeing this story brought to life by Cirque Mandinque however was indeed a sight to behold. There was traditional dance, popping and locking, flips, contemporary dance elements and heart stopping acrobatics!! I’m serious I literally felt my heart thud it’s last beat at many intervals. There was a piece which I’ll call the collapsing human tower where the performers after creating...you guessed it a human tower went down a la leaning tower of Pisa/a ton of bricks! OMG moment of all OMG moments.
Regis Truchy appears with rolling suitcase in tow. And with that it was official CircusFest season at the Roundhouse had begun. Let the bewilderment commence!!There were more death-defying, I can’t believe this is happening right before my eyes feats. Some included a Chinese pole pitched to the stage floor by the strength of the performers alone. Each one in round robin format would amble up and strike a monkey like pose, swinging, swaying and at some points spinning and twirling one handed like it ain’t no thang!
However the most gut-renching spectacle of them all was provided by contortionist Abdoulaye Keita. This dude must be double, no triple, heck quadruple jointed. The things he could do with his body should be made illegal. It’s cringe but I can’t stop looking stuff. As if made from elastic like Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, head and limbs were in positions wholly unnatural but Abdoulaye looked totally comfortable in every contorted one of them.
The finale saw Fatou Sylla shine. Beyonce ain’t got nothing on Fatou! This dancer whose career began with Circus Baobab knows how to bring it traditional African dance style. Poignant that the heavens opened to anoint her in “stardust” as she gyrated and moved in sync with the drums, it was powerful poetry.
Cirque Mandinque was a superbly explosive start to CircusFest. Over the five weeks of the festival acts from all over the world will bring wonderment and artistry to the Roundhouse and for the first time ever artsdepot and Jackson Lane as well. Roll up! Roll up!
Words: Enam G
Photography: Milan Szypura