‘Knitting Peace’, by Cirkus Cirkör

Circo Circolo festival, Netherlands; 23rd October 2014

knitt_MB-4598_100A subterranean world of white drapes and stalactites of rope spreads from the stage into the foyer of the pointed big top, with its traditionally theatrical rows of raked seating. A universal whiteness has transcended purity and entered the world of maggots, of underworld creatures who never see the sun.

The disturbingly beautiful visuals of Knitting Peace – including Ulf Englund’s magnificent lighting design – combine with an exquisite flow of circus skills and haunting live music, manipulated electronically by Samuel ‘LoopTok‘ Andersson from his own cavern-like bandstage.

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Cirkus Cirkör’s ‘Knitting Peace’

Cirkus Cirkör are one of the world’s most prominent contemporary circus companies.  Founded in Sweden in 1995, they aim – like so many other artists – to change the world through their performance.  Knitting Peace may not have a direct social impact, but director Tilde Björfors’ poetic concept is certainly thought provoking.  The two act production highlights difference and isolation, advocating tolerance and offering hope amid our human struggles for control.

The acrobatic company of five are constructive one minute, destructive the next, or both simultaneously in their world of yarn and giant crochet.  The first half establishes the otherworldly tone, allowing room in the second for higher level technical skills. These artists are not defined by a specific discipline, adding musicianship, live knitting and impeccable performance rigging to the ensemble display.

Knitted PiecePremiär januari 2013På bild: Alexander Weibel Weibel
Alexander Weibel Weibel on multiple slackline in ‘Knitting Peace’

Aerialists Matleena Laine and Nathalie Bertholio tumble in a seemingly random mess of ropes, masking their expert precision.  Mikael Kristiansen dances across globes of string in a solo hand-balance routine.  Alexander Weibel Weibel walks an innovative pulleyed slack line, going nowhere. Aino Ihanainen twists upside-down inside a knitted skirt, stretching the knots into  unusual figures.

Knitting Peace provides a landscape rather than a narrative, at times dark, at others humorously absurd, always shifting.  Here is an opportunity for contemplation, and the view is marvellous.

As discussed here, this review was written to a maximum 300 word count in order to fit the criteria of another publication.  It was a fascinating challenge, and has made me reflect on some of the pros and cons of taking my writing elsewhere.

CONS:

  • 300 words is not adequate to provide in depth documentation of current circus practise that is so vital to the development of the art form
  • 300 words does not allow for technical description of how and why the various disciplines were utilised
  • It hurts my brain

PROS:

  • It’s interesting to see how my language must adapt to an audience potentially unversed in circus terminology.  Is it ok to say ‘slackline’ without describing what that is? Or ‘handbalance’? These words need to be entering everyday cultural vernacular, and this is the kind of writing that could put them there.  I notice how circus language differs from theatre language – I use the sports-like ‘first half and second half’ because ‘act’ means something different in a circus sphere
  • It makes me focus onto the essential aspects to communicate
  • It hurts my brain

The bottom line is, I guess, that in order to make circus writing a sustainable vocation, I need someone to pay me every now and again.  And, for that to happen,  I need to fit a certain mold for a certain publication.

To any regular readers: What do you think? How do 300 word reviews sit with you?

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5 Comments

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  1. I’m new to your blog so I’m not sure how this compares to your normal review/critique style, but it certainly didn’t feel like anything was lacking from the 300 words – seems like you definitely did the show justice! Great writing 🙂 I’m also relatively uneducated (altho enthusiastic) about circus but I know what a slack line is, so I reckon most people who are interested would too – you probably don’t need to worry too much about terminology anyway as there is always Google if people are confused!

  2. I think your writing is fantastic, whatever the word count. Sticking to a word limit is a challenge, but one necessary to different forms of publication, so a useful skill to have under your belt (on your cv). Your 300 word review is just as good as your longer pieces (though I do very much enjoy the detail you usually go into), so making sure you get paid for your work should definitely be a priority for you! Congrats on being name-dropped by your editor as well – praise that is well-deserved. Jx

  3. I this this 300 word review gave justice to Knitting Piece, well done! This review is really good, but since I am very interested in circus I also like detailed reviews. How much you are willing to read may vary with the level of interest and knowledge of circus?

    It is also interesting to read about your thoughts about your article.

    My thoughts on the question if it is okay to write “slackline” and so on without decribing what it is is that it is actually good to not explain too much, as I think it will raise the status of circus. When reviewing theatre, dance or sports the journalists use the “correct” words and assume that the reader has a basic knowledge. But on the other hand it will increase the knowledge for those who don’t know so much about circus if the words are described. It is a difficult balance (as difficult as slackline).

    1. Some very good points, thanks Ellinor! I think the different levels of interest is a very strong reason why we should have a greater variety of informerd circus voices, so that there is a range of styles on offer!

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