Circus in a world out of order

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Out of Order | The 7 Fingers (Les 7 doigts) | The Cultch online | March 18 – 21, 2021

“The world is upside down, the circus is out of order,” the words on screen share a sentiment of loss along with the black and white footage of an eerily deserted big top. What is the purpose of art without an audience? The question hangs on screen, allowing us to reflect as we settle in to watch this virtual show from our homes.

In October, 2020, Montreal went into code red and all live performance was suspended. The 7 Fingers were in the midst of rehearsals for a physically distanced show that would highlight the unique struggles of the pandemic. That show has now been adapted as a film that beautifully captures not only the brilliant artistry of this company, but also the mixture of uncertainty, grief, and hope we all feel.

“We will find a way back from it all,” the company sings, declaring this not only for their company and all performing artists, but for humanity. These contemplative moments are punctuated by stunning acrobatics including tightrope, hoops, juggling, and silks — each scene executed with delicate artistry and filmed with precision. There are also many moments of humour, including an auction where they try to sell a fork, a kimono, and a child. It’s a clever economic commentary.

Lamps surround the stage, standing in for an audience. In the final scene, each artist removes their mask and stares into the camera. Their eyes convey so much in those moments; some of the artists were wrapping up a contract with nothing else in sight.    

The passing of time has felt very different for many of us this past year. Referencing Baudelaire, The 7 Fingers reminds us that we all feel the burden of time yet must resist being slaves to it. With this in mind, they launch into their finale — a party scene with sparkly additions to their costumes and giant leaps and flips off the teeter board. Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic and the burden of time, these artists continue to share their craft with us however they’re able, and we can all be grateful for that.

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