‘Lola’, by Lumo Company

Review from: Circomedia, Bristol; 13th March 2020

Lola is losing her memories. Sometimes they crystallize clear as day, other times they bend and morph into surreal half-worlds, or dissolve into total fantasy. 

It’s been two and a half weeks since I saw this studio show from Lumo Company, and my impressions now have fuzzy edges, mysterious shadows, and diamond flashes of technicolour clarity, just like Lola’s. I remember being impressed. I remember warm tears on my cheeks and tiny suppressed hiccup-sobs. I remember being charmed and grinning broadly. Now I try to fill in the gaps and make sense of those memories, painting a reality that makes sense with the fragments I retain…

The show has been devised and performed by Hanna Moisala and Angeliki Nikolakaki, and directed by Taina Kopra of Sorin Sirkus. Moisala’s shoulder-height low-wire is rigged across the back of the stage, and a central rigging point takes aerial straps and other props over the course the show – again kept to a height somewhere between floor and forehead. The space beneath the tightwire glints with translucent plastic strings. Handwritten reminder notes hang in empty noticeboard frames above the stage. A white wheeled desk and chair sit alone on the stage. There is no set designer credited on the show’s website, but these voids and their tenuous connecting threads are a strong echo of the show’s theme.

If Moisala is Lola, Nikolakaki is Lola’s memory, sometimes friendly, sometimes elusive. The two connect and share reality for a time. Or they fracture into apart. I don’t think anybody talks. But there is music. There is childhood play. There are ominous horseheads and shining superhero leotards. There’s fancy skipping, and giant marbles to juggle or lose. 

Although the Lola character was inspired by the artists’ grandmothers, who each both experienced dementia, there is no attempt made to portray anyone as an old lady. A welcome and eerie reminder that memory trouble is not just the province of the elderly. And that, in our own self-image, we may be eternally in our prime, regardless of how others may see us.

A couple of the brighter sections perhaps go on a bit longer than they needed to get their essence across, but they are well placed to offset and highlight the poignancy of other moments. As the show progresses, the lightness becomes rarer amid a gradually darker and more fearful atmosphere, but is never gone for good. For a tightwire aficionado like me, the varied use of the rig is a delight.

Lola is a great success, conjuring a clear character and developing circumstances through physical movement and visuals. The non-linear story is a perfect incarnation of the non-linear life of someone slipping through the cracks of their own reality. I’ll go again and take my friends. I’ll take my theatre friends. I’ll take my dance friends. And I’ll say, ‘See? Circus can do this on its own terms’.

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