As Artisphere and the Alliance Française prepare to welcome LEO: An Anti-Gravity Show for a two-night presentation at Artisphere, I was curious to ask Daniel Brière, Montréal actor and director, and William Bonnet, who will bring Circle of Eleven’s LEO to life on the stage, a few questions about their inspiration and experience with this gravity-defying performance.
Their responses opened a window into their creative process, their own experiences in theater and, nonetheless, give us a taste of the magical new universe that LEO promises to show audiences on February 15th and 16th.
To read their interview in French, click here.
Diana Murray Watts: Do you remember the first time you went to the theatre?
Daniel Brière: The very first play I ever attended was La Locandiera by Carlo Goldoni. It was put on by a theatre company from Montreal in the purest Commedia dell’arte style. I was struck by the level of acting, which was very physical, the masks, their utter freedom and ability to access insanity. The director had deliberately chosen to focus on the actors’ sexuality; I was a bit disturbed, considering I was barely 10 years old!
William Bonnet: My first time at the theatre was when I was nine and the title of the play was Un bon petit diable by the Comtesse de Ségur. Just seeing the actors perform was strange enough, especially seeing an child/teenager on stage in front of 300 people. This kid who was acting on stage next to adults seemed unbelievable to me because I couldn’t imagine doing anything like it.
DMW: Have you ever created a piece of theatre in which the plot had multiple actors? Did you like this experience and, in your opinion, could LEO be successful with an additional performer?
DB: The richness of this experience was linked to the creative process of working with a single performer.
WB: I’ve never gone near creating anything for the theatre, but I have had the chance to create a circus show with a director and five other artists. Without any idea what the basis of the story was, we just relied on our individual technical and artistic talents and were able to come up with and develop a story and then a performance: En plein corps.
[As for performing LEO with two actors] if it was a question of having two artists on stage, I’d say it would be a lot because if we kept the same structure for the piece, it would mean a lot more information and you’d lose certain details and a certain amount of depth.
But if you wanted to completely rework the show, why not!
DMW: Do you take any inspiration from your own dreams? If not, where do you find the ideas that you use in creating your performances?
DB: The creative process is very mysterious. Ideas are sometimes born out of an exchange or discussion, even in the actual process of working. Sometimes they come from a moment where you’re expecting much less. Everything depends on timing; you have to have a space that’s suitable for creativity.
WB: For me, ideas and inspiration come from life experience, from reflecting on the path I’ve taken and the world around us. It also takes forced mental activity and an intellectual gymnastics of going and looking for and developing our ideas.
DMW: What is the theatre scene like in Germany and Canada? In your opinions, is theatre in these two countries continuing to develop? How does LEO represent the characteristics of theatre in these two countries?
DB: German theater, in my opinion, is much less psychological than Canadian theater. The Germans have made leaps and bounds in styles and dramaturgy, which has been very influential on me over the past few years. LEO comes from a union of two cultures: my theatrical experience as a director in experimental theatre in Montreal (Le Nouveau Théâtre Experimental) and Tobias Wegner’s experience as a circus artist. This resulted in a hybrid show, somewhere between theatre, circus, and dance. A show that is steeped in each of our respective cultures.
WB: Based on my knowledge of the two countries on a theatrical level, I couldn’t really say much, but I’m pretty familiar with the realm of the circus. I think that Germany remains more traditional (cabaret) and Canada has seen a revival with companies such as Cirque du soleil, 7 Doigts de la Main, Cirque Éloïs, etc.
The circus continues to grow in both countries thanks to international artists who have managed an open, creative space to develop without any barriers through their language: their body, their movement, their thoughts. Anything goes and that promotes artistic vision and an emergence of more circus.
DMW: Is there any particular scene or sequence in LEO that you’d still like to develop or add?
DB: The show is still growing after each performance across the globe. The adventure is inspiring. Of course I could continue to explore, to add movements and situations, but there comes a time where you have to let the search come to an end. You have to act and let the performer grow. But nothing is stopping us from refining and improving.
WB: For me, I would develop the dancing a bit more in the last part of the show.
DMW: Some might wonder if the performer has to follow a particular diet or exercise routine to be able to carry out this type of performance. Is this true? If so, could you explain?
DB: The performer has to be gifted with certain physical qualities from the get go. Everyday rehearsals are essential. All dancers, athletes, acrobats in general have to maintain a body that continues to perform. It’s their main tool for their work.
WB: For me, I don’t have any special foods. I just pay attention to fats and sugar. Traveling all over the world makes it difficult to follow a specific diet because in each new country food and eating habits change. Because of that I eat everything so I adapt easily.
For the physical part, being a student at the National School of Circus in Montreal allowed me to greatly develop my physique, as well as my strength, agility, flexibility, etc that allow me to perform so physically like this on stage.
DMW: How do you hope your audiences feel as they leave the theatre after seeing LEO?
DB: I never like to impose a certain way of thinking about or understanding the show. I like for the audience to forge their own interpretation. But I hope that they’ll see the poetry, the humor, and the sensitivity that we’ve put into it. I sincerely hope that what they experience will change them just a little bit and will bring them closer to this style of beauty in the art itself.
WB: You try to make people believe the unbelievable, to make them enter into our universe. So it’s true that I like to know that the audience leaves the show feeling pensive. I like when they’re asking themselves questions about the world and when their thoughts follow them out of the theatre.
For more information on the two upcoming performances of LEO, please click here.