Two of my favourite things came together, quite unexpectedly, in perfect harmony this week, in a quite enchanting way.
I had heard of Les Amis d’Onno. I knew they did shows and film work with horses and dogs. And I knew that they had recently won a contract to provide jousting services for Historic Scotland and that their price had been fair. Not the highest and not the lowest, just the right amount to look after the horses well and do a good job. And I knew they also did dog boarding and that – according to an acquaintance who uses them regularly – they always had space and they always asked her how long her dog had been with them when she went to pick it up. All pointers, in my opinion, to the fact these Amis are true animal lovers.
This was all underlined this week when I went to one of their “equestrian theatre” productions on a hill up behind Lanton village. The flyer bore the title “Masquerade” and had a rather Bohemian photo of a lady in flowing robes astride a white horse, with the promise of drinks and canapés being served.
So that is how we found ourselves, on a balmy evening, parking by the boarding kennels and then following hand-painted signs with arrows and the word “show” on them, and up to the top of the field where, indeed, there was a proper big top. At the jousting tent box office we were handed our masquerade masks to wear.
Camping and animals coming together in a kind of Bohemian cabaret harmony, what raptures! It was the Mothership. In we went out of the sunlight, blinking, to find our named, tealighted and clothed table and take our seats.
Our two narrators, dressed for a masked ball, did a sterling job of making walking and talking in full evening dress on woodchip (and avoiding horse poop) look effortless, introducing each act.
The emphasis here is not pure edge-of-seat circus skills, but presenting tableaux and stories with animals and their humans. Having said that, the young lady who performed on two silken drapes, twisting and turning, dropping and climbing, was amazing, but was then doubling as a waitress, bringing “wine” to our narrators and shifting props in between acts like a good ‘un. A gentle democracy.
And thus we moved from taming wild horses in Australia to a Japanese lady and her protective Samurai, and from redcoats sword-fighting with Dick Turpin, to Cossacks displaying their trick riding on the Russian Steppes.
The YMs and Gamford were enraptured by this Borders midsummer night’s fantasy. For two hours, watches melted and time went backwards.
But, most of all, it was real. Some bits were not perfect. The narrators spoke over each other occasionally, and dogs jumped off podiums and had to be gently coaxed back on. Horses didn’t always do exactly as asked. But it was all part of the charm and the uncritical audience smiled and laughed along.
These are not perfectly-performing circus animals, beaten later for any mistakes. And I guess that’s why they were able to have a billy goat in their big top. Not the easiest of creatures to coax on to a podium, I reckon.
My first Les Amis experience, and I’m already looking forward to my next.