Having been performed more than 385 times around the world, Plan B has travelled far and wide. It is also a spectacle that tears down language barriers: here expression happens not through words, but through bodies, situations and music. These are universal forms of communication that Aurélien Bory, founder of Company 111, explores in most of his works using different performing arts. Theatre, music, dance, circus and visual arts are brought together, blended and combined so that expression emerges in unexpected places, such as for example the shifting set design, a source of traps and constraints.
A physical theatre
After studying physics and starting out working in the field of acoustics, Aurélien Bory moved to Toulouse in 2000 with Company 111. Until that year, the company had no official location. The city of Toulouse had just promised it a working space in the former Théâtre de la Digue. This was an excellent opportunity to enrich the catalogue of 13 works already completed by Aurélien Bory.
Works for which he developed a physical theatre whose aesthetics were influenced by his interest in science and his passion for elaborate staging, as exemplified by More or less infinity (“Plus ou moins l’infini") (2005), Not Applicable (“Sans objet") (2009) or Rubber Geometry (“Géométrie de caoutchouc”) (2011). These are performances that constantly seek to integrate the contemporary world, whether industrial or technological, into their vision of art.
With Plan B Aurélien Bory interrogates the notion of space, a central concept in his research – an interest he shares with Georges Perec as well as the inventors of Bauhaus, particularly Oskar Schlemmer. When we add the search for new shapes and a keen interest in Buster Keaton’s slapstick art and Heinrich von Kleist’s puppet theater, we can better understand the forms Aurélien Bory’s shows take. His aesthetic research doesn’t come without a cost: the spaces he sets up on stage serve above all to impose on the humans he places in frustrating worlds. They then become bearers of a touching and delicate humour.
An aesthetic in motion
Plan B presents an immediate visual shock, with dynamic young executives appearing on stage in a totally unrealistic setting, stiff in their sharp suits and ties. This is the start of a journey full of pitfalls for these acrobats, as they struggle through the shifting sets. A floor which is tilted 45° and moving towards vertical, covered in trap doors and bristling with hooks. The whole world seems united in trying thwart these characters, who nonetheless continue to move forward, catching themselves in an unstable equilibrium, getting up and continuing onwards.
In an uninterrupted collection of sketches Plan B recalls the myth of Sisyphus. It highlights, thanks to the accumulation of obstacles imposed by the movements of the set, the stubbornness required to overcome each new challenge. Stubbornness to the point of exhaustion, where we recognise a kind of madness buried in the ruthless logic of moving forward regardless of what might arise.
Aurélien Bory thus builds a world with a taste for absurdity and nonsensical situations, which, nevertheless, forces us to consider our reality as a reduced version of what is happening on the stage: between laughter and drama, between defeats and poetic flights, between stability and acrobatics.
Plan B is taking off this year as part of the Croisement(s) Festival, which is celebrating its 14th anniversary. Tianjin, Beijing and Shenzhen will be hosting 5 performances of this version of the show, redesigned by Aurélien Bory and Phil Soltanoff. It is an original variation based on the same playful principle with a larger cast. Six young French performers, some of whom are from the National Centre for Circus Arts, are part of this new adventure which will involve and prioritise exchanges with young Chinese professionals.
In addition to Plan B, Chinese audiences will also be able to discover 3Dby the company H.M.G., founded by Jonathan Guichard, a student of Aurélien Bory who is presenting his first show. The work is centred on a human-sized 3D object, between an extension of a body and a prosthesis designed to play with motion. In a musical universe created live, through interactions between the play and the spectators, Jonathan Guichard seeks to make contact with the audience. Here again, expression takes place through the mediums of bodies, movements and sounds – echoing Plan B.
The tour of Plan B by Aurélien Bory receives support from the Institut français.
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