Review: "he who falls (celui qui tombe)" at Canadian Stage

Joe Szekeres

A uniquely breathtaking theatre spectacle of movement and exaggeration of speed, sound and power.

From the press release at CANSTAGE: “Six performers appear to defy the laws of gravity as the ground on which they stand whirls, swings and elevates beneath them. Bodies lean, hang, come together and break apart, responding to the imposing, shifting force with paradoxical strength and beauty…set to a spine-tingling soundtrack.”

Artistic Director of CANSTAGE, Matthew Jocelyn, writes in the Programme that “Yoann Bourgeois is one of a generation of choreographers for whom the definition of dance has stretched beyond recognition (as) the performers immerse the audience in a deeply-rooted narrative of how the world plays upon our bodies, as feebly or forcibly we try to play upon it.”

At this opening night performance, it’s a bare stage upon which we set our eyes as the curtain rises with a musician positioned upstage far back. Six prostrate performers are lowered before our eyes on what appears to be a precariously hanging stage pulled in all different directions by pulley cords. I must admit that I have not seen a lot of highly dramatic and theatrical movement pieces, but I was mesmerized by the acute intensity and strong maintain in focus of these sinewy and lithe performers.  Not a word is spoken by any of them, and yet they captivate us enchantingly so many times with their brilliantly choreographed story-telling movement accentuated with a lively musical soundscape throughout the seventy-five-minute performance.

Photo by Géraldine Aresteanu.

Photo by Géraldine Aresteanu.

The pacing of this taut production is dizzyingly tight. At times, it was terrifying to watch as I held my breath and wondered if any would fall accidentally from the teetering and tottering playing space. Rest assured, these performers functioned as a true ensemble of players who have been well trained. To watch this performance was a joyful reminder from years ago when I attended the circus as a child with my family. I had no idea of the artistry involved in circus performance as the programme states ‘the performer [is] a vector of the forces that pass through him and is driven and penetrated by forces that he interprets.’

According to the programme, Yoann Bourgeois presents a ‘kind of mankind in miniature. The circus represents a certain aspect of humanity that man is not the center of the universe, and by the same measure there is no reason he should be the center of the stage.’ For his ‘ideal stage, man co-exists on a horizontal plane besides animals and machines without domineering over them.’ This is quite the in depth look to understand this presentation, but I simply say go and see it solely for the love of the performer trained in the art of storytelling.

Concluding thoughts: An extraordinary ride of kaleidoscopic proportions performed with exquisite grace and dignity.

  • Conceived, Directed and Staged by Yoann Bourgeois with Assistance by Marie Fonte
  • Lighting by Adele Grepinet
  • Sound by Antoine Garry
  • Costumes by Ginette Sigolene Petey
  • Performers: Dimitri Joude, Julien Cramillet, Elise Legros, Jean-Yves Phuong, Francesca Ziviani, Marie Vaudin

Presented by Canadian Stage and co-produced by Compagnie Yoann Bourgeois – MC2: Grenoble. Photo supplied by Canadian Stage.

At the Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario.

  • Opened March 1, 2018
  • Closes March 4, 2018

Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission

Visit for more information.