Underbelly George Square Gardens, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 11th August 2017
The show previously created and toured under the company name Magmanus has a continued life now with a new cast member. I was commissioned to write a 250 word review for Fest Magazine, which almost broke my heart because, with my post-classical circus head on, this is a near perfect show for me, however for Fest’s generalist audience I had to rate according to their criteria. So this is a space for me to build the conversation from those few paragraphs.
With all the charm and energy of a street entertainment, Tiger Circus (in association with UK-based Lost in Translation) have combined the adrenaline factor of high risk acrobatics with playful scientific exploration to create a nearly wordless experiential lesson in practical physics. It is delightfully funny, while giving room for deeper reflections on force and effort too. Company co-founder Manu Tiger has been joined by Massimiliano Rossetti, who fills the role previously created by Magnus Bjøru perfectly. The pair are a living demonstration of action and reaction, gradually introducing parts to build increasingly complex Rube Goldberg constructions until every object in the room is utilised, including us—the audience—as essential components.
My body is flooded with natural thrill hormones again and again until withdrawal symptoms begin to hit during the slower sections, where anticipation for the next experiment is coaxed out through the intrigue of preparation, accompanied by electric sound and silly jingles.
Equal and opposite reactions are displayed without ostentation through a range of teeterboard-based acrobatics, which include tiny scaled models that flip juggling balls in fascinating patterns, and a large curved metal bowl that adds extra frission to the exchanges between small wiry Tiger and massive Rossetti. Sports stadium floodlights and a training gym aesthetic are a neat reminder of the athletic edge that circus performers carry with them, while the open responsiveness of the two men connects us on a human level. Attachment, in this show, goes beyond the literal velcro suits, and reveals the natural laws that govern our physical existence.
What the limited word-count doesn’t let me go into are some of the following points drawn from my notes:
The concept of basing is explored in a whole new way through the use of velcro suits
- This is circus doing circus, exploring its own inherent form rather than trying to squeeze into theatre or dance territories
- Skillful harnessing of anticipation
- Vocalised energy communicates clearly beyond verbal language
- The audible rhythms of the mechanised juggling are super-cool
- Includes activity that non-circus audiences can find spectacular as well as that which circus savvy viewers can recognise as skilled and inventive
- Makes me think about the different ways effort & effortlessness are displayed, heat-sensitive shirts darkening, sweat-sheen and odour appearing
- I actually called out with amazement and jumped hand-to-mouth A LOT
- So much concept and clever structural development for my brain to mull on, yet so accessible as a show
- In physics equations, size can be irrelevant as long as the other factors balance
- The two performers are thoroughly responsive to their audience
- After so many adrenaline shots the slow set-ups start to sag – I need my next fix. But I find the way this pushes my capacity to bear the highs versus the lows interesting in itself, whether it was a considered part of the creation or not.
- They build up their props into constructions that give us no idea of their function, but the moment each time when all becomes clear is very satisfying
- Concepts are underlying, not made explicit. This probably means certain types of mind will enjoy the show and the opportunities it raises for interrogative thought more than others. I’m one of those!
- I think I enjoy the new duo more, simply because Tiger and Bjøru were more similar in performance style and appearance, and the contrast now is more interesting
As part of this year’s #CircusVoices scheme I am challenging myself to explore my reviewing practise more creatively in the ocean of circus available at Edinburgh Fringe. If you have any thoughts about who we create critical responses for, why, and what the best ways are of doing this, do drop me a message or join the conversation on Twitter!