Can a caged animal love its spectators? This is one of the many questions Compagnie Rasposo’s Morsure seems to ask in its acrobatic exploration of guilt, pleasure, and suffering. I had the opportunity to see this French company’s production during Letní Letná, an international circus festival hosted in Prague, Czech Republic. Founded in 2004, Letní Letná includes productions for children in the morning and more mature fare in the evening, bringing in internationally renowned companies for the Czech public to enjoy.
Immediately upon entering Morsure an atmosphere was being set. Walking along an outer perimeter, you circle your way into the main part of the tent, where a wall of dark fog smacks you in the face. It is almost exhausting, waiting for the show to begin, as the heat and smoke lull your brain. The show, though without interruption, performs in almost five acts. An angry couple dizzyingly revolves through anger, seduction and disenchantment, a group of drunken bright young things flirt, dance, and fight their way through a night, lovers embrace and then separate in helpless despair, arrogant socialites preen before an adoring public and trapped animals meet their master in a cage. The translated statement of intent from the company claims their show is meant to evoke the brutality of the world, the fleeting nature of beauty, and the oppression one feels from “guilty desires and stifled bitterness”.
Truly the bodies on display in this production capture all those feelings while performing mesmerizing feats of agility, balance and daring. The smoothness with which the spotters are orchestrated into the dance is impressive as they add to the story and emotions rather than act as part of the scenery. The opening moments of the production are actually its weakest, with clichéd expressions and long pauses seeming to want to depict sincerity where none laid. However, the performance quickly moved beyond this, and the layers brought to the scenes by the actors, especially lone female acrobat, Marie Molliens, were moving, impressive and astounding. The first scenes with Molliens include great balance poses and an almost awkward tango that walked a fine line between charming and desperate. When in the next scene, Molliens dances and flips with stunning gracefulness, despite playing someone drunk, it becomes clear that every evoked emotion and gracelessness in the prior scene was a purposeful choice of character and skill. Her shining moment comes later, when she, alone on stage, walks, glides, leans and jumps on a tightrope. Her body tells a story of wretched despair and anger, while performing impressive stunts of balance and strength.
All the performers are spotlighted in their talents, underscored by beautiful and creative choreography. There is a theme of animalistic movements from the beginning that culminates in a wonderful and realistic final sequence. Throughout Morsure there are some pauses and stumbles prevalent in acrobat stunts and a few attempts at forced poignancy, but overall the company was evocative and impressive. If they ever travel to you, become the spectator to their caging.