PuSh Festival: Doucet's circus history informs Se prendre's exploration of intimacy in Shaughnessy mansion

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      Anyone who has ever been with someone knows that one doesn’t have to be alone to feel lonely. It gets lonesome sometimes despite the presence of another.

      Claudel Doucet describes this as the “loneliness of being next to someone”. It’s as if a bond was broken.

      Doucet is the cocreator and principal performer of Se prendre, which is a (now sold out) show running from January 29 to February 4 at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

      The French title provides a hint of what ticket holders may expect during the 75 minutes of Se prende.

      Reached at her home in Montreal, Doucet explained that the phrase means “something between ‘to hold’, ‘to get tangled’, or ‘to take’ ”.

      “So for a title it refers to this idea of trying to reach out to the other or to another being, and the complexity of that,” Doucet told the Straight in a phone interview.

      It seems complicated, in that Se prendre uses minimal dialogue while following two performers as they move from room to room in a “secret” Shaughnessy mansion venue.

      As Doucet noted, even the spoken words used in the show might sound “disconnected” from the conventional use of speech for communication.

      To enhance accessibility this year, PuSh International Performing Arts Festival created some videos in ASL, including this one about Se prendre.

      The interdisciplinary artist comes from the world of circus and acrobatics, and this background informs the distinct language of Se prendre. “The vocabulary that we use is mainly physical,” she said.

      The work explores ideas of intimacy and relationships through movements that cross the lines of acrobatics, dance, and performance art. It also includes what Doucet called a “little bit of theatricality”.

      “Basically, we see two beings that try to craft a way to be together and around each other and break their loneliness through different strategies,” she said.

      Doucet is a 2004 graduate of the National Circus School in Montreal. She also has a degree in performance creation with Concordia University. She has performed with Cirque du Soleil and Circus Monti of Switzerland.

      In 2019, Doucet founded her own company, called Lion Lion. Se prendre came out in the same year, had an initial presentation in Montreal, and officially premiered in Norway.

      The production cocreated by Doucet and colleague Cooper Lee Smith was touring Europe before the COVID-19 pandemic started. The show was last presented in Prague in February 2020.

      The staging of Se prendre at the PuSh Festival will mark its return, which is one reason why Doucet is thrilled about coming to Vancouver. Another is that she has never performed as an artist in this western Canadian city, making this her debut, of sorts.

      In addition, this will be the first time that a new version of Se prendre will be presented to the public. It was originally written with a male and a female performer. This time around, though, Doucet will be doing it with another woman, Christine Daigle.

      “So it is now a female duet, which brings a new breath to the creation,” Doucet said.

      She added that although the casting has changed, the roles remain the same, with the interpretation having “more of this feminine energy”.

      Ticket holders will be notified about the location of the Shaughnessy residence 24 hours before showtime.

      In delving into the theme of togetherness, Doucet recognizes that human beings are complicated creatures.

      This is where the challenge lies.

      “You might not even be able to know really what you are yourself,” she said.