Glastonbury Festival; 28th June 2014
Squash, from Northern Irish company Barren Carrousel [sic] is a lighthearted romp of rural idylls and familial tussles, painted with elements of acrobalance, aerial and juggling.
The resplendent bower of bright fruit and vegetables that forms the show’s aerial rig is hard to ignore in the middle of Glastonbury’s Circus Field. The company’s attention to visual detail is enticing, and the variety of circus technique the three performers employ in their cannily presented family show lives up to an entertaining promise.
Scintillating Silvia (Anita Woods) and Tantalising Tania (Helen Ashton) are the local yokel ‘Applewood Family Circus’, who discover a country bumpkin farmer (Jacob Anderson) and vie for his attentions (although this becomes clear later – at first I think he is also a part of the Applewood troupe).
As the show begins, sounds of a ringmaster and rounds of applause from hidden speakers evoke the classical circus this fictional troupe try to emulate, in their countrified way. The bits and pieces of their acts are watchable because of their framing within this pastoral pastiche, and because of the comedic relationships between their well-developed characters.
Anderson is a natural clown with his permanent expression of baby-faced surprise and wonder, and giant bumbling frame. He is perfectly happy with his carrots and, though ‘Silvia’ is an able contortionist and aerialist, her seductive attempts to woo him pass under his radar – especially funny in a hayfever inducing hand-balance flirtation.
‘Tania’, in contrast to her long-suffering po-faced partner, is a a gleeful fool, who shares great delight when she finally lands in the limelight for a moment on the silks.
There are small spots of non-intimidating audience interaction (particularly before the story begins), though most seems to be directed to one boy in the front of the crowd. During performance, the highly dressed show only really works when viewed end-on.
Speech, sparce and seemingly improvised, is rather awkward and uncertain (except for ‘Silvia’s’ imperious instructions for applause), but the expressive faces of the performers speak clearly, and we all leave with smiles on our faces.