Category Archives: Circus & physical theatre

Care

(reviewed at the Palace Theatre, Watford on 24 June)

We all know that the National Health Service, that cornerstone of British well-being since the end of the Second World War, is in crisis. What to do about it seems to be up to the politicians and the financiers with the views and experiences of its practitioners and patients apparently taken into rather less account.

Hence Care, the latest Tangled Feet production, which is part of Watford Big Festival and has taken over the Palace Theatre’s backstage and stage for both the show and its audience. We become waiters in a hospital’s out-patient department, sitting quietly on uncomfortable chairs until something happens.

The story itself has three main characters – research surgeon Dr Papadopoulos (Mario Christofides), staff nurse Harry (Leon Smith) and over-worked, over-stretched cleaner Rita (Fiona Watson). As their individual dramas play out amid much shifting of hospital screens and beds (the design concept is by Naomi Dawson with direction by Nathan Curry and Kat Joyce) the action takes in acrobatics and an element of surrealism.

We learn that Rita suffers from blinding headaches which no-one takes seriously until it’s too late. Harry is frustrated by staffing shortfalls and overlong shifts. Papdopoulos is increasingly involved in balancing the books (as management demands) while trying to do the best by his patients and research requirements. An outside financial consultant, wished on him by the men in grey suits rather than those in surgical overalls, simply complicates his life.

Cristina Catalina and Gemma Creasey complete the main cast with a hard-working state management team handling the aerial sequences and projections. There are some clever lighting effects by Katherine Williams but the weight of the story remains withits human protagonists. “Patients are not a commodity” states one airborne character, literally spinning herself into knots as she twists and turns on a rope. But is that true any more?

Care runs at the Palace Theatre, Watford until 28 June.

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Filed under Circus & physical theatre, Reviews 2015

Bromance

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 28 May)

Modern circus training enthuses its practitioners with more than acrobatic skills; it leads to new forms of theatre, integrating dance into the mix. Take Bromance, which opened this year’s Pulse Festival in Ipswich presented by the Barely Methodical Troupe under tha auspices of Crying Out Loud and Circus Evolution.

The three performers are Charlie Wheeller, who earns justified plaudits for his routines with the Cyr Wheel, shyly comic Beren D’Amico and the exceptionally tall Louis Gift, who radiates something of the menace of Frankenstein’s monster creation – you’re never quite sure how he will react to what he other two are weaving around him.

Two’s company, three’s none goes the saying. There’s an element of this built in as a disjointed, voice-synthesised soundtrack accompanies the three men’s initial groupings. This then gives way to a solo piano, by which time we are watching something approaching dance; in turn this gives way to the sequence of displays of full acrobatic skills.

It’s engaging and draws its audience very subtly into an appreciation of what is going on. There’s a bk story, if you want to dig for it, concerning male bonding and the competitiveness which seems to be inherent in it. The show is playful and promulgates its lesson – if indeed there is one – as lightly as possible. Eddie Kay is the director.

Pulse runs at various Ipswich venues until 6 June.

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Filed under Circus & physical theatre, Reviews 2015

What Will Have Been

(reviewed at the Adnams Spiegeltent, Norwich as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2015)

Circa is an Australia-based company which takes traditional circus arts and allies them to something much closer to modern dance; there is often a complex intellectual back-story to the shows. What Will Have Been pits a girl and two men against each other, yet the fluid fragile alliances between each successive pairing suggests something deeper than the more usual girl-comes-between-male-friends scenario.

It begins with some spectacular rope-work by the unnamed female performer. In some sense her avatar, a violinist, her instrument enhanced, both comments on the action and leads it with Bach’s Partita which is inter-cut with an electronic soundtrack. What is so apparently plain before our eyes and ears is by no means the whole story. It’s counterpoint as well as variations on a theme.

The male acrobats swing each other round, balance on top of each other and perform vaulting feats. Is this rivalry, or just masculine show-off and preening? Is the male bond stronger than whatever fascination the unsmiling girl exerts, or do they just circle around each other in a sort of mental and emotional cocoon? The phrase “a mystery wrapped in an enigma” would appear to fit.

There’s no disputing the technical skills and abilities of all four performers. The audience is close to them at all times. The Norfolk & Norwich Festival (now threatened with an appallingly ferocious cut to its grant-aid funding) has commissioned this new piece from Circa as one of this year’s highlights. Let us hope that it won’t be the last.

What Will Have Been plays in the Adnams Spiegeltent, Norwich until 24 May.

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Filed under Circus & physical theatre, Reviews 2015