Brewhouse Arts Centre, Burton-on-Trent; 4th December 2014
Under the brass and cogs and rubber tubing that loop across the stage, behind the potions pouring coloured smoke and from among the strange, sepia-toned contraptions that seem recognisable for a moment as a gramophone, or guitar, emerges a storyteller’s reassuring voice, introducing us to Kinesonic Engine 237091_3, and to the workers who must tend this unique machine to keep its song alive…
Conjuring a delightful steampunk fantasy for children and their families, Kinesonic is the debut production from Vagabond’s Hat. Revolving around the ragtag crew’s attempts to mend their cosmic music engine, the show has been developed over two years after securing a £10,000 prize in the 2012 Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprises.
Technology and alchemy combine with well-judged ensemble clowning and refined circus techniques to create a detail-rich universe with high sensory impact. The story is simple and the wordless characters, though absurd, are clear and non-threatening. If the Motorettes from The Hoobs were given life and brought to stage, this is the show we’d see.
The internal circus logic of play fuels magical manipulations of the set, and we watch oil-drum hide’n’seek and triple trapeze tea-breaks alongside lasers that control musical notes and bubbles that burst from the ceiling. Alex Flanagan, co-director of the company with Augusts Dakteris, is the chief engineer, and also the chief musician, live looping a variety of instruments and found objects. Michael Banks’ juggling rhythms are given percussive voice as he works his way up to seven balls (then adds an eighth) – the sound element highlights his technical skills as each contact and throw provokes a different effect.
Dakteris takes to his aerial straps in a superb, joy-driven fighter plane fantasy, and Caroline Abbott works some celebratory shapes on a swinging Chinese pole (although impeded somewhat by her petticoats).
Amid the heights of a technological world, Kinesonic is a funny, charming and wondrous reminder of our physical, sensory selves.