‘Ringside’, by Ellie DuBois

Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 11th August 2015

'Ringside' IMAGE: Chris Hoyle
‘Ringside’ IMAGE: Chris Hoyle

Hands covered in chalk dust, I wander away from the aptly named Demonstration Room, feeling like I should have touched that trapeze. Should have jumped up and hung, felt something tangible instead of played the observer for a change.

Ellie DuBois’ unique one-to-one close up circus experience Ringside, performed by Cory Johnson, provides time for digesting what a trapeze is, with and without a body attached. More interestingly, there is an implicit demand to consider your own relationship to the equipment.

You enter the room alone, you leave alone. In between times, you have Johnson’s gentle and comforting smile, and a whole load of time to take things in. (The performance is 10 minutes long, but a circus act is usually seen at speed, in production. Here, it is raw and deconstructed, allowing you space to soak up the mostly unnoticed realities of trapeze performance.)

Standing at the white light that could mark a boundary between onstage and off, I absorb the room. The hanging objects. The sound: dripping, ticking.

Johnson appears, coiffed and made up, in a typically spangled traditional tight fitting aerialist’s performance costume. There are no instructions; I don’t know the rules. I ask. I am gently led deeper. To feel the adrenaline of a performer for myself; to be watched.

I feel acutely aware of my own gaze. How do I look at things? What am I seeing here in the human skin behind the sparkles, in the plastered and bandaged knees, or the swing of the ropes in their tethers… Constituent parts are bought into their own sharp focus.

Each experience will be uniquely personal, and so details are best left to be discovered. I would love nothing more than to be a fly on the wall and see how differently others respond to the same encounter. This Edinburgh run is already sold out and, with so much large scale circus on offer here this year, it is unsurprising that this show has proven so popular as it brings an unusual intimacy to the art of trapeze.

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