Edinburgh Fringe Festival: (Le) Pain
On our radar at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is JD Broussé’s first solo show – (Le) Pain – a play on the French word for bread and the English word for suffering, as JD is forced to choose between continuing the family legacy or pursuing his dreams as a performer.
I caught up with JD for a behind-the-scenes look at the production.
When did you first start to suspect that baking – the family business – probably wasn’t what you were passionate about?
I think I guessed it quite early on. The bakery always felt too familiar and somehow too dull to me. Unfortunately, I understood the beauty of making bread much later.
The way I was taught was just doing what I was told and being told off if I didn’t do it accurately. I didn’t learn why we were doing things a certain way or not, I was just told to do it right. For that reason, my feeling was that this job was repetitive and boring and I wasn’t interested in doing it.
I once told my dad that I learnt more about baking watching The Great British Bake off than I had learnt my whole life working with him. I knew the techniques but didn’t know why I was doing things until watching the program. He laughed and said that that’s the way he learnt it. Just repeating over and over again.
Somehow, that way of learning was not matching my personality and I preferred books. So, I went on to study French literature.
You left the family bakery and literally ran away to the circus. What was it about the world of acrobatics that appealed to you?
To be honest, the circus career appeared very randomly in my life.
During my studies in History at UCL, I joined the Roundhouse youth studios in Camden where they were giving super-cheap acrobatics classes. They also created a little company to open their Circus Fest Festival.
Getting to do workshops with circus performers and performing among them, I was hooked. I’d always dreamed of doing something artistic but I thought I would be behind a camera rather than on stage. The circus somehow gave me a way in.
I specialised quite fast into being a base, which consists on lifting people – the attention is not directly on you but on the person that you are lifting. I think that made my fear of being watched and taking space less daunting.
I also discovered clowning – the ultimate art of improvisation – and I think all these things slowly revealed the artist I wanted to become and allowed me to take more and more space.
Because of its autobiographical nature, was the creative process of developing this show in some way cathartic or a bit of a therapy session?
When I was listening to the radio the other day, someone said: “Performing is always cathartic but never healing”. I liked that because I think it’s true.
I don’t like to use the autobiographic aspect of my show to do my therapy. I have done that on my side. But I like to find universal questions that everyone has had to deal with in my own story.
(le) Pain is about the ending of the family bakery. It felt really nice on a personal level to be part of that journey and somehow celebrate it in my own way. But everyone has experienced some kind of ending in their life and I always try and have enough space in my story for people to read their own.
This is your first solo show – how does it feel to be on the stage by yourself? Is that liberating or terrifying?
It’s both. The creation of this show was super-exciting because I was finally doing my own thing after always being part of ensembles. But then, I got really scared. All my skills were with people. How was I going to hold an audience for an hour by myself? What was I going to do?
I think this experience has brought a lot of growth for me as an artist and as a person. To be honest, I wasn’t ready for the extent that it is tiring to be on stage by yourself for an hour. It’s tiring physically but more importantly psychologically.
It’s hard to carry a show by yourself and I hope Edinburgh will be sweet to me. But I have had an amazing and super-supportive team the whole way through and I am super-excited to see the show grow every time I perform it.
What do you hope that people feel when watching (le) Pain?
I hope they’ll have a laugh, a cry, a bit of reflection on their own life and that they’ll fall in love with me because I guess that’s the main reason I do this job. For validation!
But joking aside, I hope they’ll get a sense of communion and a feeling of humanhood. Someone told me after the show that it was “life affirming”. I’m happy with that.