Francoise and Renaud Swetschin of Aristobulle want magic to be a piece of art, a part of theatre

A couple is out camping, it’s a French tradition and an alternative to a vacation. But they are not an ordinary couple, the husband is a magician and the wife, is cooking. The magician is up to his usual tricks, practising magic and his wife is tired of his tricks.

“So she wants to take the stage and put him down,” describes Francoise Swetschin, of the French magician duo Aristobulle, who recently performed at the Alliance Francaise. Her partner in real and stage life is Renaud Swetschin and this is a typical everyday scenario that the couple portrays in their performances.

Their show is known to transform everyday situations into something extraordinary, which in this case is comical, crazy or magical. “For example, the wife is dusting with a feather duster and suddenly it turns into a bouquet. That’s changing the ordinary into the extraordinary in the story.”

Aristobulle first performed in 1986, when the couple Francoise and Renaud decided to pursue magic full-time. “I first encountered magic at the age of 10. I had a friend, now my brother-in-law, who used to present magic shows and I continued practising until I was 20. Later I met Francoise, who was an antiquities dealer. Francoise helped me put together my first show,” recalls Renaud.

“At that time he was a jeweller though he had a passion for magic. It was then that we decided to dedicate our lives to performance,” adds Francoise. Their first show was dedicated to children. “Right from the beginning we were clear that we did not just want to do magic tricks. We wanted magic to be a piece of art, a part of theatre. That was our objective and so we always have a bit of theatre in our magic shows,” says Renaud.

No tricks here

“First we come up with a theme, and then the characters, and finally the tricks or illusions that will portray this theme. This also involves writing a story. Our identity in the world of magic is that we don’t just perform tricks, we present theatrical-comedy. This is our signature,” adds Francoise.

There are very few people who do it, she says. Most do ten-minute situations, but Aristobulle’s performances last up to an hour and revolve around one story. “It is not to bring about serious thoughts or reflections. We put together situations from magic shows and situations from the life of a couple and make a parody,” says Renaud.

Another peculiarity about Aristobulle is that they also perform their stage shows on the street. “People usually do not have the same show on the stage and in the street. But performing on the street this way is rich because people are really close to you. The exchange is rich,” he explains.

“It is also interesting to do it on the street because you get an instant audience and they have the right to decide whether they want to stay or leave. Whereas the audience in the auditorium have paid for the performance and can’t leave so easily.”

Renaud and Francoise define themselves as illusionist actors. “We are trying to shift traditional magic into the set-up of acting.”