La Meute

Compagnie La Meute is a group of six acrobats premièring their work for the first time in the UK as part of the Roundhouse’s Circus Fest. Combining humour, music and plenty of gasp-worthy stunts, this sextet’s act mainly revolves around the ‘French Swing’ (an adaptation of the more traditional Russian Swing) – a robust piece of metal apparatus that, when swung at full velocity, can propel members of the company an impressive ten feet into the air. As the programme notes explain, the company’s name translates as “The Wolf Pack”, as their “risk-taking acrobatics rely on trust, solidarity and the ability to read each other’s non-verbal communication, they always know what the other is going to do next, just like a real-life wolf pack”. Although this production is slick and meticulously rehearsed, a real sense of unsettling unpredictability resonates throughout the piece as the audience are on the edge of their seats, never sure what crazy trick Compagnie La Meute will attempt next.

This talented young company of daredevils comprises Julien Auger, Thibaut Brignier, Mathieu Lagaillarde, Sidney Pin, Arnau Serra Vila and Bahoz Temaux – all of whom wear little in the way of costumes apart from white towels, fashioned to look like over-sized nappies, which for me heightens the overall playful nature of the performance. A recurring motif within the work is when one of the group swings ferociously on the French Swing, whilst the rest of the ‘wolf pack’ lie underneath with their faces just inches away from the trajectory of the rapidly approaching swing. With every stunt the tangible tension within the Roundhouse mounts, as each feat appears to be more dangerous than the last. It is not often that you are sitting in an audience where you can hear so many audible winces and gasps.

Alongside their twists and turns in the air, as they hurtle off the French Swing, they also perform some comedic sequences involving a ladder and a plank of wood, which in parts teeter on the verge of being slapstick-esque. That said, I couldn’t help but be impressed by three grown men balancing on each other’s shoulders in a human column formation, whilst striding confidently around the space. Furthermore, nobody could fault Compagnie La Meute for their creative use of the French Swing; it is impressive that they manage to find so many different variations and ways to use just one piece of apparatus, in such a manner that sustains the audience’s interest throughout.

Although the whole evening is a great display of acrobatic skill, I was a little disappointed with their finale. I had hoped it would build towards an impressive jaw-dropping display, but alas it does not. Without revealing any spoilers, let’s just say it ends with more of a whimper than a bang; it is a real shame that the gathering momentum within the work does not culminate in anything more impressive. Nevertheless, if you enjoy watching scantily-clad men performing acrobatic stunts that really do have to be seen to believed, I strongly suggest you purchase a ticket to see Compagnie La Meute at this year’s Circus Fest.

Compagnie La Meute is playing at the Roundhouse as part of Circus Fest until 6 April. For tickets and more information please visit the Roundhouse website.