Les Frères Taquin
By Dominique Jando
Nothing, however, predestined Olivier Taquin to become a performer. He was born in Jemappes, Belgium, on November 18, 1955, the son of a businessman; his mother was a housewife. Olivier went on to work as an educator for handicapped children; during the course of his training, he had taken mime workshops to better communicate with his pupils. His instructors thought he had good dispositions for mime, and suggested he furthered his training in that discipline.
Olivier’s first performances were in shows that he put together with his students. His interest in pantomimeA circus play, not necessarily mute, with a dramatic story-line (a regular feature in 18th and 19th century circus performances). as an art form was growing nevertheless, and he began performing as a side job for birthday parties, weddings, and other social occasions. Then came a time when he realized that he had to make a choice: If he wanted to truly improve his abilities as a pantomimeA circus play, not necessarily mute, with a dramatic story-line (a regular feature in 18th and 19th century circus performances). artist, he had to focus on performing, and make it his sole occupation. Around 1975, Olivier Taquin became a mime.
He built for himself a repertoire of classic pantomimeA circus play, not necessarily mute, with a dramatic story-line (a regular feature in 18th and 19th century circus performances). pieces from Marcel Marceau, and other pieces that he created himself, or which were written for him by friends. Olivier’s character at the time was a classic Pierrot—following the age-old tradition originated by Jean-Gaspard Debureau. Then, in 1983, while performing in a corporate event for Godiva chocolates, he tried his hand at impersonating an automaton; the organizer of an auto tradeshow noticed Olivier and hired him to demonstrate, as a human automaton, the use of credit cards as a means of paying for gas in gas stations.
The following year, he decided to try his luck at street performing to pay for his summer vacations. He had noticed that many street performers worked in St. Tropez, the fashionable resort on the French Riviera, and he wanted to do the same—using his automaton character, which was intriguing enough to catch the passersby’s attention. Working with his street audience during that summer, Olivier began to develop the broad lines of what would become his act.
Back to Brussels, he continued performing in the streets, sometimes under the watchful eye of his brother, Laurent. Finally, Olivier asked his brother to work as his partner, as the "technician" in charge of making the "automaton" work. The year was 1984, and it was the true beginning of Les Frères Taquin. Olivier and Laurent Taquin continued to work together until 1987. By then, Laurent, who was not truly cut for performing, called it quits.
Instant Success In Paris
It is at that junction that a friend suggested that Olivier send an application to participate in the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris. Olivier had no idea of what this Festival was, but did apply nonetheless and, to his surprise, was accepted. He quickly teamed up with a former colleague of his days as an educator, Eric Jenicot, with whom he used to perform back then, rebuilt his act, and went to Paris.
Although it was the first time they performed in a circus ring—and in such a prestigious venue as the Cirque d’Hiver to boot—Les Frères Taquin became the sensation of the 1988 edition of the Festival, and won a Gold Medal. The numerous agents and circus directors present at the Festival came immediately knocking at their door, and it was the beginning for Les Frères Taquin of a prestigious international career.
With various partners (Eric Jenicot from 1987 to 1990; Olivier Deschaveau from 1990 to 2002; Ramon Hopman from 2002 to 2007…), Olivier Taquin has been featured in some of the world’s most prestigious circuses and varieté(German, from the French: ''variété'') A German variety show whose acts are mostly circus acts, performed in a cabaret atmosphere. Very popular in Germany before WWII, Varieté shows have experienced a renaissance since the 1980s. shows: Circus Knie in Switzerland; Circus Roncalli, WinterGarten, and Apollo Varieté in Germany; the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris; and the Big Apple Circus in the U.S. (where he performed twice: in 1991-1992 with Olivier Deschaveau; and in 2008-2009 with Valdis Yanovskis), and many other venues in Europe and Asia.
Beside their Gold Medal at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, Les Frères Taquin have been awarded the Press Award at the 1999 Clown Festival in Ostende, Belgium; the Golden Clown Nose at the 2001 Copenhagen Clown Festival in Denmark; and the Bronze Clown at the prestigious International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo in 2007.
- Video: Les Frères Taquin, Comedy Act, in the Big Apple Circus production of Greetings From Coney Island (1991)
- Video: Les Frères Taquin, Comedy Act, in the Big Apple Circus production of Play On! (2008)
- Oral History: Olivier Taquin interviewed by Dominique Jando (2008)