This response was produced as part of the #CircusVoices scheme for developing critical languages around circus arts.
Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 6th July 2016
One performer, Thomas Monckton, one chair, one light; the technician on stage, on one side, sitting at a little desk that reminds me of a school desk; she is present, but not active in the play.
The scene is minimal, in the unique setting of the Demonstration Room at the Summerhall, a place where a powerful energy emanates from the history that permeates this room, once used as an anatomy lectures theatre, with its wooden, curved seating and vaulted sky light. As I later discovered, this room is the last surviving example of this type of lecture theatre at veterinary colleges in the United Kingdom. I am instantly struck by the building and especially by this room; the setting helps to create a surreal atmosphere, there is a clinical severity about this building that makes it chilling and captivating at the same time.
At the beginning of the show, even what we see of the performer is minimal, down to the bones. We see just his legs, then just his hands, a retractable downlight is lowered just to the right point that allows us to see only specific parts of the performers body.
But my use of the word ‘just’ does not give the correct idea of what is happening during the show.
Under one light, on one chair, between two hands the whole world unravels : emotions, relationships, friendships, competition, collaboration. And, with just the right pace, the show grows as we get to discover all of the parts of the man behind the hands.
As we discover him, he discover himself, how he breathes, how his lungs expand, how he stands. With a wonderful playfulness, Monckton constantly engages the audience’s attention by creating new worlds – and subsequently destroying theme – taking the spectator in a game of creation and destruction similar to the game of a weird God; or maybe, Monckton is the first man that walked this earth in a discovery of a stream of consciousness and realization.
With minimal change in lighting and sound, no music is needed; the stage shrinks to the most small detail or amplifies to the depths of the vast oceans. Monckton is capable not only of great physical accuracy, but using his physicality to tell the infinite story of life; jumping from the most crude anatomical detail to the complicated structure of human emotions.
This performer holds the stage on his own with no problem, his body is the only prop he needs, this is physical theatre at its core with all the playfulness worthy of the best clowns.
I truly enjoyed this show, well executed, extraordinary mise-en-scène and all ruled by a powerful choice, the choice to do less. Never better said than on this occasion: less is more.
In the continuous information of shows, skills, facts that is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – and life in general, in this age of constant information, twitting and twatting – this show is a breath of fresh air. By doing less, the performer allows us the space to think, to create, to project our own ideas; always though with a clear guidance, he leads us on a journey of self discovery.
And so, I wonder If maybe this is the feature that makes this show so appealing to me.
Since I clearly understand the message, for how complicated, I feel intelligent; I admire not only the performers’ physical and intellectual skills, but I admire my own capacity of understanding, seeing a world that is not there but suggested by symbolic messages.
I feel a part of Humanity, we speak the same language of imagination and creation.
This show is a must see, the best I have seen so far.