Circomedia, Bristol; 4th February 2016
Circomedia’s third year students show us what they’ve learnt in their final ensemble project, Ten. Made in only a few weeks, and to be taken on tour around South of England and Wales, lets break down the performance… Buzzfeed style:
Number seven will just blow your mind…
1. Whats in a name? Well Ten becomes obvious within the first few moments of the show; there’s ten of them. Ten students who have made it through various paths of Circomedia; FDA courses, BTECs, and their main degree course, culminating in this final major group project. As well as performing, each student takes on a company role in the show too, marketing/manager/director etc.
2. There are also ten acts. Bookended by opening and closing group pieces (but more on those later). The acts themselves each felt a good length, none overstayed their welcome, or lost their way. Kudos to them for not falling foul of the common ‘third year problem’, where students desperate to jam in all they’ve learnt overfill their acts. Here we see choice acrobatic movements, chosen for the acts’ feel and connection to the tricks as well as impressivness. Equally the acts all hold their own – although there are multiple hoop and acrobalance acts, they never blend into one.
3. Which brings me nicely to the fact that there seemed to be two distinct themes for the acts. The first was a very standard, wear black, pause dramatically, do a kickass trick then leave ‘circus school’ feel, with more than a couple of the acts grappling with the complex issue of gender roles in stories. The second – and much more watchable – theme was a vague kind of WWII or 1930s vibe. The costumes, music choices and comedy skits in the acts all gave the impression they were reaching to parody a time in history (one skit being a humorous early soap box advert come to life!).
Both these themes were fun to watch and seemed to be in equal measure but, frustratingly, not in any deliberate order or structure. One moment we watch two soldiers goofing around to Dad’s Army type music (very funny), then we seem to be back in modern day with a heavy metal aerial act.
Its not show destroying… but it does make one wonder how different the show could be if perhaps the first half was a modern, gender topic dealing exploration… and the second half took us back in time… or vice versa…
4. Music throughout is fitting for the acts, and in many cases adds to the humour and mood.
5. The opening aerial act from Tilly Lee-Kronick, combining her movements on the trapeze with live singing, is a fantastic opener for the show. The trend of performers who excel at more than one thing continues with Lewis Trump and Leo Ward, who display impressive physical skill in their acrobatic acts and provide amusing skits as their clown characters too.
6. The use of interesting props keeps the show feeling fresh and innovative throughout: juggling upside-down around chairs; acrobatics while holding an umbrella; the beautiful contraption of a see-saw harness connecting our two performers constantly via the rigging (pleasantly funny and metaphorically complimentary).
7. Theres a giant puppet that just appears right at the end.
8. Told you no.7 would blow your mind. So, more on this puppet. A huge jigsaw of a human being, controlled by all members of the cast. An impressive sight when it “assembles” on stage, and a hilarious, joyful finale of dancing and acrobatics make the puppet by far the most memorable moment of the show.
9. Which begs the question, why bring out such a huge, dominating and, granted, fantastic act at the very end? The puppet is as simple as it is wonderful, and I could easily have watched a full hour of the fun and games the cast create around the idea. A dance off… a trick competition… they really bring the character to life. I’d suggest to maybe try to introduce the puppet as a concept earlier, building the excitement and getting it to really pay off. At the moment it’s a bit like a sneeze… over before you really get to enjoy it.
10. Ten shows promise, revealing a graduating year group that can handle a big task (of creating their own show entirely), create individual acts fit for general public entertainment, and are also broad thinkers, grappling with the concepts that define their acts, namely: gender and expectation. Heres hoping theres more to be seen of these ten!