This response was produced as part of the #CircusVoices scheme for developing critical languages around circus arts.
When I read the blurb for Aaron Twitchen’s aerial silks stand-up comedy show Curtain Twitchen I thought it would either be a triumph of form and function, or I would be sat watching a man fail at two things. The reality is that this show is neither of these.
From the very start of the show, Twitchen confesses that the concept is a gimmick designed to set him apart from all of the other comedians at the Fringe, and sets up a delicate balance of expectations about what we might see. Clearly an experienced and competent stand-up with well crafted if unchallenging material, Twitchen has a distinctive style that would perhaps be best described as ‘ultra-camp’. The main narratives of the show are the well-worn tropes of the difficulties of single life and the adventures of him and his ‘girl squad’. That being said, I did actually laugh quite a lot during this show, and his ‘plenty of fish in the sea’ routine has been one of my favourite comedy bits of the Fringe. He is, however, far from being the world’s most competent aerialist.
The show begins promisingly, with Twitchen demonstrating the difficulty of climbing the silks while holding the microphone, but the fusion of apparatus and comedy is then lost as he proceeds to lower the mic and demonstrate a standard aerial routine which, although underwhelming to my circus eyes, the audience responds well to. After finding himself in his end position he makes some well placed jokes about the connotations of the aerial postures and the difficulty of getting his breath back, before descending and continuing the majority of his show on the floor. Much later he returns to the silks in a promising re-enactment of a drunken ‘girls night out’ dance number, but again any meaningful fusion of performance, comedy and aerial technique is quickly lost and it rapidly turns into another standard aerial routine.
As the energy of his set ebbs and flows he returns to the silks a third time for a maudlin act intended to symbolise a lost friendship before rallying with an impassioned speech about how circus training is for everybody, which was actually very heartwarming, although by this stage in the show he had already thoroughly won over the crowd with his cheekiness.
Rather than some innovative melding of comedy and circus technique the fact that there are silks in this show really is just a gimmick. I would suggest that if you are going for the circus you might well be disappointed, however if you are looking for a fun, camp, comedy show with a twist then this will probably make you smile.