Underbelly Circus Hub, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 12th August 2015
B-Orders, from the Palestinian Circus Company in association with Aurora Nova, can legitimately reclaim the term ‘political circus’ for the art form. In a beautifully expressed production, the two performers – Ashtar Muallem and Fadi Zmorrod – evoke the tensions and lack of options available to young adults in oppressed states.
The show is firmly grounded in the performer/devisors’ own cultural experience, including projected and spoken texts that smack of autobiography but with a universal relevance, and imagery that is recognisable in its foreignness. Issues of gender imbalance, freedoms, and desire for change are brought to life through contemporary dance, utilising aerial silks, Chinese pole, and the balancing and dispersal of small wooden blocks.
Initially structured as two small buildings, disconcertingly similar to those we see on news footage of the Middle East, the blocks become pathways, possibilities, possessions. A minaret is built, and the image of a boy.
From equal positions, like young siblings, the roles of the two shift into distinctly male and female social positions. Muallem talks of childhood memories, and the growth of difference, dancing with a body that becomes more and more distorted with the pressures added to her developing female life; while Zmorrod continues as before, climbing and reclimbing the pole. Later, he will lose lucidity waiting for hours at a border checkpoint in the intensity of a crackling heat conjured by choreography, sound and light.
The two actors both give strong performances, emotion and determination in their faces, gaze considered and telling at all times. There are things I don’t understand, but the movement is engrossing enough to keep me captivated, and I’m invested in the story. I want to know what will happen next.
To an ominous and grinding soundtrack the pair travel through security via interesting interactions around the Chinese pole; layers of dignity are removed, and various types of trauma revealed – not least of which, the waiting.
A repetitive cycle is revealed, and yet B-Orders manages to end on a new message of hope, and help. The show has had the support of Juliana Neves as an external eye, and the integration of circus technique and a theatrically constructed message is very well done, producing a show that is both moving and thought-provoking.