‘Liquid Sky’, by Bassline Circus, MHz and Sue Zuki

Review from: Circomedia, Bristol; 2nd March 2019

Image of a female performer silhouetted against a twinkling midnight blue backdrop, where a giant shadow looks back at her, circles of light like eyes in the palms of its hands
‘Liquid Sky’ by Bassline Circus, MHz and Sue Zuki IMAGE: Bex Anson

A giant black catwalk imposes between the stone columns of Circomedia’s vaulted church space. At its far end, a gauze curtain is lit with a fiery orange circle, masking the stage behind. The crowds who are gathered for this one-night performance, as part of Submerge’s festival of digital arts, mill into the surrounding space, and gradually still, heads uplifted towards the sun-like image and raised walkway, in anticipation of what may come.

Photo of an aerial rope performer silhouetted against a fan of light that beams from behind, patterns like clouds on translucent turquoise and pink. The performer sits into the rope, hanging out from one arm gripping the cord above her. Against her black silhouette, two circles of white light glow where her eyes must be.
Aedín Walsh in ‘Liquid Sky’ IMAGE: Jack Wrigley

First comes the bass. Throbbing, regular, low. A sonic buzz of electricity that primes my pulse. Jets of haze hiss into the space above our heads, dissipating through the room. I feel filled with the expectation of cultish ritual. Like the ravers and partygoers of the club scene where laser arts first took off, we’re here for something transcendental.

Photo from underneath a sheet of turquoise blue light. On the other side of the light curtain, the figure of aerial performer Aedín Walsh looks down. Her arms, one leg, and the tail of the vertical rope that holds her above the ground reach down through the light towards us, becoming black sihouettes, and casting shafts of diagonal black shadows out to the edges of the picture
Aedín Walsh in ‘Liquid Sky’ IMAGE: Jack Wrigley

The interweaving patterns of precision lasers that will carve the air into solid planes, through a perfect balance of otherwise invisible haze, have been designed by Jack Wrigley as part of an exceptional 45 minute piece of aerial performance art. Directed by Bex Anson, of Total Theatre Award-winning MHz in collaboration with Bassline Circus, Aedín Walsh descends a horizontal rope, then climbs aloft into a shifting topography of Escher-esque altered dimensions. Not only is the aerial portion 25 minutes long, but Walsh does the whole thing blindfolded as a health and safety measure against the lasers, masked with animated LED eye goggles that blink and twinkle, creating otherworldly creatures out of her twisting human form. The producers of the forthcoming stage adaptation of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth should totally hire this team to recreate a live Goblin King’s palace.

Photo of a very dark, indigo-tinged stage. In the bottom left of the image, musician Sue Zuki stands at a sparse desk of electronic equipment. In the top right of the image, aerialist Aedín Walsh supports herself up a vertical rope while shafts of bright white light laser past her, over Sue Zuki's head, and out towards us
Sue Zuki and aerialist Aedín Walsh in ‘Liquid Sky’ IMAGE: Bex Anson

The other important element of the production is Sue Zuki’s omnipresent music, performed from a corner of the stage that is variously lit and shadowed to contrast with the sharply illuminated grids and vistas above us. Her genre is Dark Wave (according to the programme – I’m otherwise sadly clueless on distinctions of electronica), and the name suits the ominous rhythmic tones that wash over us, as well as her sonorous vocals, whose occasionally caught lyrics have a melancholic punch.

The shape of the piece moves from celestial harmony into churning confusion, surrender, and a final Indian Rope trick ascension to serenity, before we too are raised out of the underworld through a layer of blue sky.

Photo of an aerial performer stretched vertically, looking out at us. Her hands grab the vertical rope above her head, while her feet knot into the rope below her to keep her suspended. Her face is masked, but a pair of white lights form eye shapes where her face would be. Diagonal beams of mint green and cherry red light cross behind her, slicing the black background from the bottom of the image up and out to its edges
Aedín Walsh in ‘Liquid Sky’

I want to go again. I want to take my friends. I want to watch from other angles. I want to take in more of the never-repeatable nuances of swirling clouds and light. I want to rejoin the communal rites of turning our heads to the sky and moving our bodies subtly to the beating soundscape. Liquid Sky thrilled my senses with beauty. I want more of that please.

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