The Case for Circus

When I’m in Edinburgh for the Fringe, I try to see physical theatre, circus and dance.  There’s a lot of innovation in these areas, and it’s fascinating to see what performers can do with no or limited text, using just their bodies to tell a story and express emotions.  Performers come from across Europe; audiences tend to be knowledgeable.  Two shows I have seen recently at the Lowry in Salford have based their productions around circus.

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Hogwallops (Lowry)

The Hogwallops (16, 17 Oct, Lowry Quays), presented by Lost in Translation blended ‘thrillingly spectacular circus skills seamlessly with physical comedy, theatrical storytelling and slapstick’.

Bromance (24, 25 Nov, Lowry Quays), by Barely Methodical Troupe ‘mixed their enjoyable personal chemistry and humour with exceptional skills in parkour, Bboying, tricking, hand-to-hand acrobatics, Cyr wheel and more’.

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Bromance (Lowry)

By the nature of the routines, the circus sections are spectacular and intense; the acrobatics in both shows were impressive.  It would be impossible to keep up this level of performance for the full hour.  So the rest must be woven using other techniques including storytelling, mime, and physical comedy.  And actually once you have shown the audience something special, the rest has to be good to keep the momentum going.  The Hogwallops used a simple baking story, but included some clever physical comedy and slapstick (mainly with bananas).  Bromance focused on male relationships, which was a sensitive and effective concept given both the trust and competitive nature of acrobatics; there was great observational comedy (and an innovative scene at a urinal involving origami swans).  Both shows took the focus right back to the individual performers’ faces to highlight emotions and reactions to situations, call it mime if you like.

A physical theatre or circus show is a different experience to text based theatre.  Think Golem and you’re half way there.  You’ll see the big spectacle and the tiny emotions.  Got to be worth a try!

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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