Last January, TOHU should present Cirque Barcode’s show Sweat & Ink, which was not possible for reasons we all know. Cirque Barcode took advantage of the opportunity to have TOHU’s hall at its disposal to organize a video capture of the show. Thanks to the partnership between CALQ and TOHU, the Quebec circus company was able to spend 10 days in TOHU’s premises, concentrating their efforts on 5 days of filming with 3 cameras. Afterwards, acrobatic meetings were organized with some of the artists participating in the Branché project, an in situ creation show for 8 acrobats, a collaboration between Cirque Barcode and Acting For Climate Montreal.
Tell us about Sweat and Ink, what is the common thread and what can the audience expect?
Sweat & Ink is a contemporary, theatrical circus show that deals with different facets of memory. The story revolves around a group of friends, one of whom loses his memory in an accident. After that it’s a little like the movie Crash– four individual stories that intertwine- meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets circus. There’s acrobatics, cigar box juggling, russian bar, hand to hand, teeterboard, aerial hoop, but also four characters with four personal battles they’re trying to overcome throughout the show. It’s a fun show, but not necessarily an easy show- we made it so that it’s fun to watch, but also fun to think about after and have some real discussions about.
Sweat and Ink is your first full show as a company. What does it involve in terms of work compared to creating numbers?
Making acts for a show similar to making individual acts, but different in that you need to think of the larger story and character arcs than you need for just a five minute piece. You want to think of how you got there, how characters relate and interact and transform. In many ways this is really exciting because you can’t just do things how you’ve done them before, you have new limitations based on the whole world that you’re building throughout the show. We also had a lot more space to create scenes that weren’t just our circus specialities, where we could try cool ideas that inspired us that felt perfect for the story, but that didn’t necessarily involve an aerial hoop, for example.
How long have you been working on the show?
We first started working on the show in 2018, hosting our first workshops and residencies. A year after that we went to Prague for another big creation period where we made the costumes, light design and custom music. In 2019 we played another version with a larger cast in Switzerland, continuing to learn what our show was about and evolving it, then did another block of creation in early 2020, where we were set to start a European tour when Covid happened. We cancelled the day before our premiere and flew everyone home. Now in 2021 we have the chance to film the show, which is actually really cool because it allows us to tell these four characters’ stories exactly as we want- you really get to see each moment and emotion and transformation. But we’re excited to play it for real one day!
The 4 artists also played the question game in bursts!
The last show you played in?
Eric Bates and Tristan Nielsen : This past September Barcode played outdoor creations with Elemen’terre, an environmental project that sailed to different islands around France on the Pen Duick VI. Before that it was probably Vitori with Cirque du Soleil.
Eve Bigel : We were supposed to play the premieres of Sweat & Ink in Switzerland on March 17th, so it couldn’t be that … As for the others, the last project I was involved in was Elemen’Terre. 5 mini-creations in 5 weeks, and for each one we start from scratch: new theme, new approach, new ideas and research. Very interesting, stimulating and exhausting! Before that, it was Fête des Neiges last February, in Montreal, with Tristan: our duo outdoor at -25°C, in boots and gloves…
Alexandra Royer : Just like Eric and Tristan, I took part in the tour of the Ponant Islands with the Elemen’Terre project, in Brittany, on board the mythical sailing ship Pen Duick VI. Just before that, I had the opportunity to perform at an incredible festival called Cirque au Sommet, in Switzerland, which takes place half under a big top and in the mountains. Finally, we had the chance to organize and participate in a workshop for the creation of the show Branché (a collaboration between Acting For Climate Montreal and Barcode) and to improvise as a group in the forest, a wonderful place of creation called Hors Champs which is located in the Eastern Townships. It was certainly the right year to “go outside and play”!
The last circus show you saw?
Eric : Wow, tough one. Last show I saw live was probably a rehearsal for Machine de Cirque, La Galerie right before Covid happened.
Tristan : Ouf yeah hard one! I think it must have been Passagers (Les 7 Doigts) in Graz Austria on December 31st 2019…
Eve : In France, the Circa festival in Auch was able to take place just before the second confinement and closure of all cultural venues. I was so happy to have the opportunity to support artists on stage, that I saw almost 10 shows there in 3 days. The very last one: Desiderata, from the Cabas company.
Alexandra : Just like Eve, I had the pleasure of going to the Circa Festival. In just one week I was able to see : Ghost Light by Machine de Cirque, Desiderata by Cabas, K by Kurz Davor, Low Cost Paradise by Cirque Pardi, Don’t feed the aligators of 100 issues, Fournaise taken over by the 2nd year students of CNAC, Chimera by Circo Aereo, Tres de Zede, Un contre un by l’Oubliée, FIQ by Groupe acrobatique de Tanger, De la colle pour vos âmes by LIDO and Une pelle by Olivier Debelhoir.
Then during the festival in Switzerland: Dans ton coeur by Akoreacro, L’avis bidon by Cirque la compagnie, La fuite by Mathias Pilet, L’envers by Ici Bas, Insaisissable by L’insaisissable and the Gala of the festival presented by the unique Calixte De Nigremont.
In short, these moments “from the world before” seemed completely surreal to me. Lucky and daring, their organizers allowed us to breathe between two confinements. To envisage again the tours and the creation.
What was the last thing that moved you?
Eric : I’m editing the video of Sweat & Ink, so I get the privilege of seeing the videos at night after every day of filming. There’s a scene in the show where Eve has Post-it notes all over her, sort of a game of labelling people that went too far. There’s a close up of her sitting alone, reading these notes, seeing what people think of her- good and bad, and she’s just so vulnerable, it really got me. I can relate to that feeling of private realization, “Am I really like this? Do people really think that about me?” But also if you receive a kind note from someone you respect that lifts you up; they’re both such universal but deeply personal feelings, and to get to see that on Eve’s face as she reacted to each of these sticky notes really got me.
Tristan : Biden becoming president of the US and nominating a cabinet that represents the actual diversity of the country. Seeing people all over the country finally being able to identify with their leaders and aspire to fill those rolls one day themselves.
Eve : Eric’s answer suggests that our life revolves around this shooting, but… well, these last few days, our days and our thoughts have been filled only with that, so it’s true. So the last thing that moved me deeply was the music Betty Bonifassi composed for the show. Each scene suddenly becomes my favorite part of the show as soon as the music Betty wrote for it is started. Everything upsets me in there, and above all… her voice!
Alexandra : Talking with or about Betty, as well as the music she created for Sweat & Ink still moves me… I am full of gratitude for the immense opportunity that TOHU and CALQ have offered our young company and the show. I was also happy to realize how many people want to take care of the environment, during projects such as Branché and Elemen’Terre, or at the Cirque au Sommet Festival. I am more and more convinced that this bridge to a greater collective consciousness can be art. That sustainable development can be achieved through culture.
Here are some pictures of the show: