Pierrot Pillot-Bidon, the man behind Archaos, talks to Trevor Johnston, in a converted abbattoir, about how he has taken a chainsaw to the neck of traditional circus.
pril in Paris. A tousled half-Italian half-French person puffs on‘another Gauloise and almost chokes his interviewer. Overpowering though the Gallic tobacco haze might be, the denims and the shirt are the real problem. This man and his attire, one suspects, have not been parted for a considerable length of time. The result is the kind of radioactive whiff normally reserved for bag-ladies and Hawkwind casualties.
And circus people too, ofcourse. Which is where Pierrot Pillot-Bidon comes in. He’s the man behind the money-spinning metallic mayhem that is Archaos, the raggle-taggle band of acrobats, motorcyclists, jugglers, and downright mental cases that’s picked up the traditional circus world by the scruff of the neck and taken a chainsaw to it. This afternoon we’re on the outskirts of the French capital in a converted abbattoir that’s home to the new £200,000 Archaos spectacular Bouinax In Love, and just a few feet away from the show’s impressive gathering of automotive debris my hydrophobic pal Pierrot is thinking aloud. ‘lam an artist and a businessman‘ he reflects, ‘I make artistic business.‘
Actually, it sounds more like ‘artistic bees’ knees”, but if his Franglais is after the school of Peter Sellers, the Archaos phenomenon’s combining ofold-style feats ofskill and balance with post-Mad Max displays offerocious mechanical danger and destruction is without
precedent. Hence the brouhaha when they hit last 3
year’s Edinburgh festival, shocking pundits, punters and licensing authorities alike with the buzzing insanity of their so-casual way with motorbikes and Chainsaws, and creating headlines with both a bad tightrope accident and the carrying off of a national newspaper’s initial Pick of The Fringe prize.
Since then, an ongoing personnel carousel and an apparent desire on the part ofconceptualist Pierrot to shift the troupe‘s artistic direction from the brink of foolhardy bravura has resulted in a completely new show that‘ll spend much of 1990 touring Britain, stopping in Glasgow for the first time in July and hitting Edinburgh once more as part of the (ahem) official International Festival. Gone from Bouinax In Love are the nerve-tingling motorbike antics and the buzz-saw
jousting, to be replaced by a new-found sense of graceful absurdism.
Pierrot, who stresses the importance ofcasting in finding the right blend of performers, calls them ‘scenes oflife‘. Which is fair enough, ifyour daily existence shufﬂes by with much of fish-throwing, wearing plastic bags, baiting blind women, dangling from a thirty year-old ex-Russian army crane, bounding around on all fours, not wearing very many clothes, and having your every move accompanied by a well-drilled French rock act called The Chihuahuas. Well, it‘s yer average Day In The Life ()fA List Reader, innit?
As Pierrot will advise you though, possibly best not to try this at home. ‘My people they are crazy’ he gestures, affirming his mastery ofthe obvious. “They want to push the limits. Last year we lost two spines, but this is not particular to Archaos because acrobats always want to do more.‘ Sometimes too much more it seems, for since I saw the show in April the chiefclown has broken his collarbone and will never perform again. while Su Brent, the English queen ofthe high wire, has managed to accumulate two broken arms for her trouble.
Uncharitably, one might suggest it‘s the possibility ofwatching it all go terribly wrong that draws audiences like tricoteurs to the big Archaos tent in the first place, but, paradoxically, it also has the effect of attracting prospective stars of the sawdust and tinsel in their droves. With a nod Pierrot confirms, ‘lfwe allowed everyone who wanted to join up to come along with us there would be thousands of Archaos people. But you know, the ones who come they must be generous. They must want to give to Archaos and not just take, take, take. And then maybe we are building people.’
Archaos perform in The Big Top on Glasgow Greenfrom Sat21 July to Sun 5 Aug at8.30pm (no perfMonday) with 3pm matinees Sat/Sun. Advance booking on the mobile Archaos box office 083] 220 400/220 401 and from Wed I8July onwards the permanent Glasgow Archaos line will be open on 041 55 I 8088 and 55] 8877. Archaos will also be playing Leith Links in Edinburgh from Sat I I Aug to Sun 2 Sept, the same times apply and advance booking is available from the International Festival Box Office, Market Street on 031 225 5 75 o.
Photographs by Gavin Evans tram the book 'Atchaos Cirque Revolutionnaire'.
ﬁThe List 13 — 26July 1990