Jackson’s Lane; 1st July 2015
In this second full length show from Silver Lining, commissioned by Jackson’s Lane as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations, our collective memory banks are reinvisioned as a sparse teenage bedroom, pasted in coloured post-it notes and pinboards full of photographs, peopled with daring acrobatic expressions of feeling. Nostalgia and nows whizz and rewind with startling speed and almost-poignant slowness as the seven performers hurtle through histories that could be their own, or simply have been found floating on the breeze.
Devised by the company with creative consultancy from Paulette Randall, this is a true ensemble effort with remarkable technique demonstrated by all the company members, through both solo moments of specialist skill, and in the group displays of pitching, dynamic Chinese pole, and the use of a hula hoop as moving vehicle for an exciting finale of Chinese hoop diving.
There is nothing taxing to the intellect in the snatches of text and song that lightly wash in and out around the physical dexterity, and the dramaturgy is solidly ‘by the book’ for devised ensemble theatre. Like the 90’s pop songs that fly in and out of the mix, this is an easy-going show that doesn’t punch deep, but leaves you with a big cheesy smile on your face.
The performers’ genuine personalities shine through with no apparent artifice from the moment we take our seats, as we’re invited to write our own memories on coloured squares of paper to be tacked to the walls with the rest through immediate and natural conversations. We learn more about them as they categorise themselves, ‘Midlands’, ‘Ginger’, ‘Cats’ – by their manner as much as their choice of answer.
Tom Ball and Lydia Harper put themselves firmly in the ‘Musical Theatre’ camp and, along with Naimh O’Reilly, provide the ultimate acappella mash-up of Peter Andre, S-Club, Spice Girls et al that opens the show in close harmonies and counterpoint. Later O’Reilly shows off her clear voice and exquisite vocal control as she performs a hand-balance routine cocooned in song, with never a waiver in tone during the inversions and twists of her torso.
Ball combines his endearing nervous optimism with the experience of audition failure and perseverance, in a segment that sees him transition from everyman clown to unique aerialist on a low slung truss. My nerves grit as he performs a skywalk with his head barely 6 inches from the ground.
Kalyn ‘LJ’ Marles presents smooth aerial straps work to a soundtrack of contemporary urban dance music. In his first sequence, the straps are tethered to the centre of the bed that has come to rest centre stage, anchored by the weight of three reclining cast-mates. As he dances above them with choreography that combines elements of silks and pole technique, they are in as much of a position of risk as he is; in his second solo spot, Marles spins from the traditionally free-hanging straps, snaring a ribbon of film from a decorative reel-to-reel projector that flows from him like our past flows from our present, counterweighted unobtrusively – yet unhidden – by Harper.
Harper provides the only moment of true emotional resonance for me, as her pre-established ‘Lonely’ becomes a soul-baring solo on double static cloud. Punishingly masking one hurt with another, she is caught between the two suspended ropes, alternatively fighting for then relinquishing control. Harper is a hell of a performer, and it’s no surprise when I find later that she’s soon to join the Cirque Du Soleil stable.
Bubbles of activity swell, then pop out of existence again, with recurring motifs that provide some cohesion. There is a lot going on in this production, with little tethering trajectory other than a loose collection of delicate hand-to-hand snapshots that mark a relationship developing and shifting over time (Nathan Redwood Price and high-flying Isis Clegg-Vinell). In keeping with the hand-written aides memoires that adorn the theatre (and, at times, the acrobats themselves), here is how I see the show:
Cigar box master Eric Bates (last seen in Sequence 8) is charmingly at ease with himself onstage, enjoying his slips as much as the more traditional accomplishments of sensitively timed juggling patterns, engaging us with moments of pause amid otherwise lightning fast manipulations that express a sense of jubilant freedom.
Throwback generate lots of laughs, and lots of good feeling. The young Silver Lining company show exceptional promise and, if they learn to brave theatrical risk as well as they do the bodily, they could be on their way to becoming the 7 Fingers of the UK.