I wanted to create a unique alter ego

Artist Guillaume Cousson, who lives in Garretstown, performs at Cork Midsummer Festival. He talks about his French-Lao heritage, his alter ego Riuchi and his love of performing
I wanted to create a unique alter ego
Artist Guillaume Cousson

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am French-Lao and was born in Limoges, France. In 1975, my family had to escape the communist takeover of their homeland. As my grandfather was a general in the royal army, we were banished from our country. My mum, a beautiful and well educated woman, met my father, a French man, back in the early 70s. He had connections in Limoges so managed to get most of our family there. The rest were spread across Europe and the US and it took more than a decade to be able to trace everyone. I was raised and educated in France, but my mum always kept our Lao culture alive. My family was very thankful for being welcomed in France, allowing us to have a chance to be raised normally. It was, at the time, a matter of escaping death.

I moved to Ireland 10 years ago as part of an international business course, and I am still here. I started performing, mostly fire shows, and to my surprise I got paid for it! This taste for performing was a form of therapy to me. I wanted to create something entirely unique, so I created an alter ego, Riuchi, and a show inspired from Asian tales. I decided not to follow any school or any specific type of training, but to do what I felt was right for me. My shows are really a piece of me.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

In many ways, I’m very Asian when it comes to saving energy and being rational. I am not so much of a party man - not anymore anyway - and I like the comfort of my house. If I was to see a show, it would be a comedy, especially something physical. Two of my favourite shows would be by Lords of Strut, who are Cork Midsummer Festival favourites and were Britain’s Got Talent’s semi-finalists, and Tumble Circus. They are both perfect representations of what Irish humour and performance is all about: they take their work seriously while not being serious about it.

Lie ins or up with the lark...which is it for you?

I am more of a night bird and love the darkness. It’s really at night I work and think the best.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

Being a performer, work does creep into the weekend. For example, with Cork Midsummer Festival, I’m performing Dream of Light from Friday, June 16 to Sunday, June 18 at The Granary. However, I love what I do! My days are never the same, and go from very quiet days, where I can step back and plan ahead, to very hectic ones where I’m creating new shows, training and touring. I work mostly every day and take a proper holiday once every two years. There is no Monday to Sunday per se, as I work around dates filled in my calendar.

If money was no object where would you head for a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

I feel very lucky to be able to visit many countries and go on little adventures when I’m touring. If I could choose one place to visit tomorrow, it would be Peniche in Portugal. I love it because it has so much to offer, from good surf to lovely people.

Artist Guillaume Cousson
Artist Guillaume Cousson

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

My favourite down-time between travels is to enjoy the countryside at Garretstown where I live with my girlfriend. The place is so beautiful, and just by the sea.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

I love to Skype my brothers and mum on Sundays, and at the same time, I can also see my little nephews and niece growing up. My favorite time is during their homework, so I can help them with it.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

I really enjoy surfing at Garretstown Beach as it enables you to connect with the present, being in sync with the ocean. Riding the waves is challenging and exciting. However, it often puts you in your place as it can be quite scary.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter do you have a signature dish?

On tour, you do not always have the luxury to cook, so I end up eating out a lot. So, when I am back from touring, I cook as much as I can. I take inspiration from my Asian ancestry and also from classic French meals. I mostly take the theme and colours as a starting point. If it looks nice, it shouldn’t taste bad. I started cooking at a very young age and was very influenced by my family, particularly my aunt. She is what we call a ‘cordon bleu’ chef, and has spent most of her life cooking with passion. As a kid, I was her guinea pig, and had to give her honest feedback on each dish she cooked for me. If I was not an artist, I would probably be in the food business.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork - where are your go to spots for coffee/ lunch/ special meal?

I am a tough cookie when it comes to eating out! I love Miyazaki for food, Cork Coffee Roasters for my coffee, and O’Mahonys in the English Market for my meat. These are, by far, my favourite ones.

Sunday night comes around too fast...how do you normally spend it?

On Sunday nights, you’ll find me at home lighting the fire and taking it easy or in the summer, when the days are longer, going for an easy surf at sunset.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

As late as possible. More or less around 7.30am.

Dream of Light premieres at The Granary Theatre, Mardyke and runs from June 16 to 18. The show, which mixes circus and dance, is suitable for all ages, and stars Riuchi – both a warrior and alchemist – who comes from the imagination of Guillaume’s Asian identity. Tickets are €12/ €35 family from corkmidsummer.com.

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