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Masterful magic by miracle makers

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Imagination is probably one of the most mystical things to try to explain or even explore. But when it works, it’s something that’s so overwhelming, so overpowering, it wraps itself around you in a way that’s inexplicable and magical.

When it happens in the arts, especially in live theatre, few things compare and give such joy.

If the French Season has done anything for the 2012 National Arts Festival – and they’ve had a huge impact this year – perhaps most decisively it is with two productions from the same company, Afternoon of a Foehn and Vortex.

Sadly, it is one of those things one has to experience so as to fully comprehend the impact. And if ever you see either (start imploring the French Embassy immediately that they should tour the country), you don’t want to know too much before the time, because that’s part of the wonderment.

How does someone decide to arrange a circle of different-sized fans, creating a show space in which – in both cases – a single performer first shows you how the plastic bag dancers are made and then releases them to the full force of the fans? What follows feels like the essence of art.

It is manipulated, of course, but the imagination at play, the uniqueness not only of the show but also of each performance, is magical in the most childlike sense.

And yet, even though chance plays a part, the work, the detail, the lighting, the two very different – yet equally evocative stories – even though the one seems to take flight while the other has a much tighter hold, is quite astonishing.

That’s what live performance is about. It’s about blowing people away – in this instance in spectacular fashion – yet seemingly with such simplicity.

And yet, it is the excellence of the execution, the way every detail has been carefully polished and perfected, the choice of perfor-mers, their look and their particular performance and the way they play with what they have been given, is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences – except they’ve done it twice.

Many people have said this was their best show ever; one of my favourite art journalists was adamant, but that’s not really at issue. The thing that is best about these miracle shows is that they are the proof to anyone who questions the value of the arts or the effect it can have on your whole being.

All one has to do is take them to see either of the two.

If ever I have wanted to shout, Vive la France, this was it.


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