A man on the stage is holding some plain rope in one hand. A few waves and a blow of ‘magic breath’ after and he comes upto a seven-year-old girl in the audience, who squeals with joy as she pulls out the rope to find that it is knotted at intervals.
This is one of the acts that Company Aristobulle pulls off with ease. French illusionist duo Françoise and Renaud de Swetschin who make up Company Aristobulle are in town and spent the last weekend with a few children from Kadam, an NGO that strives to provide education to the underprivileged.
Though much is lost in translation - from French to English to broken Kannada - magic and illusion are universal and the children had a ball. So did the grown-ups, starting from the van driver who ferried the children to the venue Alliance Francaise de Bangalore to the interpreter. “Magic is something that people believe is impossible but is happening two feet away from you,” says Françoise. And something that brings out the child in all.
Renaud’s fascination with magic took off he when he was aged 12 and assisted a magician friend during a show. Though he went on to become a dealer in precious stones - Françoise used to deal in antiques dealer, for both Renaud and Françoise magic went beyond being a hobby and eventually became a full-time passion. The two met, they decided that “performance” is what they had to get started with.
“Magic is something that exists amid people. Even though they may not be aware of it,” says Françoise, reflecting on the team’s perception of magic.
Early in their career as illusionists, which began about 28 years ago, they recognised that, in addition to presentation, a theatrical element to magic is essential too.
“Our shows are more like a theatre performance where we are like actors playing our parts,” the couple tells City Express. When Françoise and Renaud rehearse, they often do so under the eye of theatre directors. “We are so comfortable with each other - even on-stage - that we would like someone from outside to tells us if something works or not,” shares Renaud. “For some shows, especially the more complicated ones, we even have another actor with us,” adds his partner.
Apart from dramatising their shows, what’s most important to the two members of Company Aristobulle is interacting with people. “Whether in the auditoriums or on the streets - about 20 years ago, we took our shows to the streets in France so that even those who could not frequent auditoriums could be a part of the show, interaction is important to hold the attention of the audience. In an auditorium, after the show, the curtains close and there’s no scope for interaction,” Françoise says.
Company Aristobulle tours around the world, and with Françoise and Renaud speaking only French, grabbing their audiences’ attention at the start of every show remains a challenge bigger than pulling off a trick.