‘Blizzard’, by Flip Fabrique

Review from: Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 2nd August 2019

Slowly, like the settling of snow, or the melting of an iceberg, Blizzard grew on me. Flip Fabrique seem to have a knack for amusing and sentimental froth that suddenly gives way to a real undercurrent of emotion.

It’s funny, because that’s not what I remember when I think about their shows I’ve seen. I remember the high skill level and technical polish… and a lack of particular depth. What my memory forgets somehow is the way it feels in that moment, in that auditorium. I was chatting with dance critic Donald Hutera this morning about my plans to see the company’s latest offering. I said, ‘I think their work is always technically en pointe, and charming, but doesn’t have much heart.’ Donald said, ‘For me, the heart always comes later’. I have to hand it to him, he has a better memory than I. They got me again.

The set-up to the show gives us a health and safety warning about extreme weather. The clues are all there that this is a show about climate change. Eyes covered. Blind falls. But then I think they’ve forgotten. Fun-filled skits on the joys of winter seem to be telling a different story. Aerial straps duets like snowflakes, combining cradle and doubles trapeze type moves with the more usual straps fare; a tumble track of snow-day playground antics; tossing balls of the white stuff around on shovels until they form ordered juggling cascades. The comic relief of ‘Little Guy’ (William Jutras) being bundled into thick thermal clothes, or succumbing to the temptation of licking a slab of ice. And then things turn.

William Jutras in ‘Blizzard’ IMAGE: Sebastien Durocher

From the icy haze of winter, Little Guy appears on top of musician Ben Nesrallah‘s upright piano in a tropical outfit for a hula hoop routine. Just as funny as before. Just as impressive as the rest of the talented cast, with sharply whipped manipulations of one and two golden hoops before a multi-limb spin. But, as in previous Flip shows, I find the music and sound choices leading my emotional trajectory and, suddenly, I am seeing Blizzard as an elegy to a way of life we might be losing. It’s not just a celebration of winter, it’s a goodbye.

A tramp-wall routine is increasingly intense as the surface keeps shrinking. How long can these humans keep bouncing back? The destabilisation of the set structures seems sudden. But it’s been going on imperceptibly the whole time. New survival strategies are required.

‘Blizzard’, by Flip Fabrique IMAGE: Sebastien Durocher

Maybe other audience members can overlook what I see as a climate change message, and enjoy the well-constructed acts for their own stylish, entertaining but shallow sake. Maybe the toddler to my right calling ‘Up! Up!’ at all the acrobatics; maybe the other to my left singing along with Nasrallah on stage; maybe the lady next to me gasping, making predictions and commenting on the cast’s cleverness (I love how circus audiences feel the freedom to engage vocally like this!). For me, though, the powerful end that matches our ominous opening message is what will make this show (hopefully!) stick in my memory better than the last. Like Donald said, the heart came later.

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