By Aaron Blevins, 12/13/2012
Histor’Event to present re-enactment this weekend
On Saturday and Sunday, all the roads by the Equestrian Center near Griffith Park will lead to Rome, where Spartacus will again battle the Roman Legion for the freedom of his army of escaped slaves.
Heroes of Antiquity, a French historical re-enactment group, will invade the center over the weekend, treating patrons to nearly two hours of ancient horsemanship and unscripted gladiatorial battles.
“It’s just like 2,000 years ago. We are gladiators,” said Olivier Brocard, who will portray Spartacus over the weekend.
The production is hosted by Histor’Event, a company created by Mickael Durand, Aurelien Nouge and Pierre Chambaud, three history students who sought to offer historically accurate reproductions of ancient conflicts.
Histor’Event got its start in arenas near Nîmes, France, where crowds of approximately 12,000 would watch the battles unfold, Brocard said. The company is expanding into the U.S. with this weekend’s show at the center, which can hold 3,500 people. The hope is for the event to spread to other cities and states.
“[The U.S.] is the country of shows,” Brocard said in his thick French accent. “It’s very complicated to do it in Europe because everybody’s a skeptic.”
While the group did have success in Europe, the performers had heard multiple times that there could be even more interest in the U.S. They decided to bring the initial Heroes of Antiquity show to L.A. due to the city’s love of “spectacle.”
“Everybody told us it would work,” Brocard said of bringing the event to America.
Histor’Event was not able to bring some of its re-enactment partners from Europe, but some groups from San Francisco and San Diego will assist with the production over the weekend. Approximately 60 to 70 people will be involved, and the content will essentially be the same.
The group, which also includes Samuel Geoffroy, will suit up in ancient gladiatorial armor, complete with helmets and shields. The event’s equestrian elements are choreographed, but the gladiator fights are not. And the audience decides who “lives” or “dies.”
The battles are similar to mixed martial arts fights, but they are not as violent, Brocard said. He said the fights end via submissions, knockouts or by another gladiator surrendering.
“The worst thing you can have is a big knockout, or you broke your elbow,” Brocard added. “The finger hurts too. …That’s why we practice a lot, so we won’t injure anyone.”
Nouge said the show is appropriate for children, as it is not as violent or bloody as mixed martial arts bouts. He said that 2,000 years ago, gladiators never subdued an opponent and pummeled the person relentlessly.
“It’s not the same [as mixed martial arts],” Nouge said. “That’s not our kind of show.”
He compared the show to football and other contact sports. While it does involve combat, the audience is hoping to see some techniques and “beautiful moves” that are athletic, graceful and hard to duplicate, Nouge said.
Histor’Event is not just fighting either. Nouge referenced the show’s use of horse riders and stuntmen. After the shows, the group likes to meet with members of the audience and take pictures as well.
“It’s like a tradition,” Nouge said.
The group spends a significant amount of time training — running, wrestling and working out. They have also enlisted the help of a historian, who offers information on ancient fighting techniques.
“This is the first goal of our shows — to make it realistic from history,” Nouge said.
This is evident in how the audience decides the fate of the defeated warrior. In movies, patrons give a thumbs up/thumbs down signal, whereas Brocard and the gladiators contest that, in ancient times, the audience would wave a white flag — or not. The battles also had referees, an aspect of the fights that generally do not make it to the big screen, Brocard said.
With re-enactments being a common occurrence in the U.S., Histor’Event is hoping to organize a summer tour in the U.S. following the L.A. show. The group is also looking to expand in Europe. However, that’s not to suggest that they are growing too big for small events. In fact, they’ve even performed at weddings and birthdays.
“It’s original,” Nouge said.
Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for children. For tickets, call (818)840-9066, or visit spartacus-and-the-roman-legion.brownpapertickets.com. For information, visit historevent.com/index-en.php. The center is located at 480 Riverside Drive, Burbank.