12 November 2016
For those in the contemporary circus scene, The 7 Fingers company (or Les 7 Doigts de le Main) hardly needs introduction. This modern Montreal-based company never lets an audience down, and has continued this trend with Mirvish onstage in Toronto. The incredibly personal and thoughtful Cuisine & Confessions thrills from the beginning, with a cheeky pre-show where the performers tour the audience, giving out treats, coffees, and asking for memories or tales of food and cooking. I was asked my favourite food (a fresh Caprese salad/Mom’s spaghetti, depending on the day), least favourite food (fennel/anise), and a memory from a meal cooked in my childhood (my Croatian grandmother making plum dumplings with cinnamon sugar). I was already enthralled and giggling as the performers told some of their own stories from the stage, and the audience wasn’t even fully seated yet. Adding to this darling introduction is the exquisite programme. Tailored to the show, the main spread has an unexpectedly sweet design, and gives tidbits of information on the performers, set, show development, and even gives the recipes for the dishes made during the show. This unique concept, developing a performance around memories of cooking, families, and kitchens, touches one’s heart in such a profound way and through every sense. You can smell dishes cooking onstage, see flour and eggs flying through the air, and really get insight into each of the performers based on their favourite foods (borscht, banana bread, tea, and the perfect omelet).
The circus artists performing in this show are undeniably some of the most talented I have seen. They move through and with the floor like the best modern dancer, and use their bodies so creatively. Some circus shows may impress an audience due solely to their acrobatic nature, but this show inspires even other circus professionals: a regular back handspring suddenly switches directions, angles, and finishes as something entirely new. I was so pleased and stunned with the creative pathways these artists chose through the air, and the surprises just kept coming. Traditional apparatuses were used in a unique way and with such artistry. The Chinese ring piece was so thoughtful and bodies were used in such a sensitive and aware manner that it became something unique, wonderful, and heart wrenching. The aerial silks piece boasted wonderful silks designed to look like gingham kitchen tea towels, and the juggler used a set of kitchen whisks instead of batons. Each piece, in addition, flowed so naturally and organically out of the curated whole. The whole company participated in each piece as background and support, really giving a holistic feel to the performance, unlike a variety show where each piece stands alone. This honesty is also reflected in vulnerability, which is the most sought-after, daring, and necessary aspect of any art. The Chinese pole artist, Matias Plaul, intersperses his act with his personal story of food and family. Cuisine & Confessions moves through emotions so easily, from carefree to serious, passion to humour, enveloping the audience in every moment, crystallized in Matias’ piece. The final moments of his act not only elicited gasps, but found me clutching my heart and tears sparkling in my eyes.
Cuisine & Confessions is truly unlike any performance I have seen, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. It filled my heart to the brim, and inspired such feelings of love and nostalgia that I can’t help but wonder at the performers and director alike. The truth and realism shown to me on that stage has imprinted this company in my mind, and I will attend every show of theirs from now on as within my capabilities. Additionally, the audience participation in this show was touching and incredibly effective. It turned into a throughline, an inside joke the entire audience shared with the humans on the stage, uniting us all as one. The physical cooking onstage and then sharing of food was also so lovely and wholesome that I can’t help but be impressed. This performance, more than any other I’ve seen by large or small company, truly makes me want to fulfill my dream and run away with the circus, this circus. Plus, the banana bread really was fantastic.