This response was produced as part of the #CircusVoices scheme for developing critical languages around circus arts.
C Scala, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 7th August 2016
After a little walk down hill, to a venue a bit more distant from the rest in the Fringe, you get to a beautiful church at the end of the road, Saint Stephen’s Stockbridge; maybe it’s because it is my first time in Edinburgh, but I am astonished and surprised at the quantity of marvellous buildings used by the Fringe, not only conventional theatres; guided by a local friend, it was a joy to take a walk in this new (to me) part of town and get to know a bit more of this beautiful city and its history.
This is one of the leading circus companies in the UK, they are very well known nationally and internationally; personally, I have known their work for many years. They are a fruitful company, that have produced many shows in the last few years. For this show they have expanded their core and founding group – formed by Alex Harvey, Charlotte Mooney and Tina Koch – with four new members.
If you have never seen their work, you must see the show and, if you have seen their work already, you most probably will want to see this show too.
The concepts are simple and accessible, still there is an intricate component to this company’s work, that probably comes from the profound exploration of their initial ideas. As Alex Harvey explained to us after the show, the company has an established way of producing material. Usually, they will build a prototype of the aerial structure they want to work with, in this case, simple metal tubular poles (Chinese poles, for the ones more acquainted with circus). Then, the company has several sessions (I am not talking about days, but months) to explore this new structures and apply their circus, dance, and manipulation knowledge to this new equipment.
To make a comparison with music, they would be a kind of jazz player of circus; they have the technique, they have the knowledge, they use the basic instruments and laws of circus, but then they mix it and change all of it, to produce a different sound. It is Chinese pole, but at the same time it is not.
Obviously this type of work, that puts health and physical safety at risk, cannot have such a big improvisation component as jazz music, but still all the cast play around with their ‘technique’ with that same virtuosity and adaptability.
All the performers (Harvey, Nich Galzin, Emily Nicholl, Telma Pinto and Steve Ryan – this time Mooney and Koch have directed the piece) are technically very good and have that special quality that some performers have, you instantly like theme and would go down to the pub with theme.
Another characteristic that I enjoy of this company is the equality of sexes. Male and female play parts of the same weight in the scenes, there is no trace of sexism, no clichés about gender, but true simplicity. They just are themselves and this does not mean they are equalized in a sexless world – they still have their differences and personalities – but all play the same value in the balance of things.
There is a meditative component to this piece of work, helped by the musical score, a balance played through the whole piece, similar to a Buddhist ritual, where things come and go, but with ease, no attachment, no strong leaps of emotion, an acceptance of a natural beauty and a sense of present, here and now.
Maybe this can be the only element that someone could not like, but this is down to personal taste, some spectators like bigger leaps of emotional imbalance; actually in this piece the point never really tips.