‘Yablochkov Candle’, by Ilona Jäntti and Aino Venna

Review from: CircusFest, Jacksons Lane, London; 20th April 2018

Go see if: You want creative solo circus choreography.
Stay away if: You need a story or laugh-a-minute traditional cabaret.

‘Yablochkov Candle’, by Ilona Jäntti and Aino Venna IMAGE: Adam Gasson 

Immediately, the small theatre of Jacksons Lane sets the atmosphere for Yablochkov Candle by converting the seated rows into a smouldering cabaret venue, with chairs around tables and low hanging lighting. The set design is speckled throughout the venue as a pre-curser to where the action might take place, although all is not given away. All three performers; Ilona Jäntti, Aino Venna and Erik Michelsen enter and take their bow, making eye contact with the audience. Jäntti raises up the low hanging lighting, not only creating space for her first aerial exploration but symbolically opening up the space for performance.

Finnish Jäntti graduated from an MA in Choreography at Laban back in 2011, where she uninhibitedly explored new choreographic techniques using her circus skills, gained from Suvelan Sirkus and Cirkus Piloterna (now ESKO and DOCH). Jäntti has previously stated that she is ‘not a theatre-maker‘, but rather is exploring all the possibilities in circus as its own valid art form, through the use of varied compositional ideas. This show is homage to that sentiment.

‘Yablochkov Candle’, by Ilona Jäntti and Aino Venna IMAGE: Adam Gasson 

Yablochkov Candle is billed as a cabaret. It definitively has a cabaret-esque formula to the night; the set design, the 3-5 min performance structure, a string of songs and intimacy. But if you’re expecting a cirque du soir, where each segment has obvious comedy or highly sexed double entendre, then think again. Whilst the deep rich lyrics from Venna are sometimes overtly comical, it is a subtle intimate humour from Jäntti. In this show the cabaret formula supports Jäntti’s desire for segments of exploration.

Jäntti begins with two aerial hoop pieces back to back, each mesmerising and flawless in technique, fluidity and creativity. Her skills level is phenomenal, the second hoop act building and developing her style and our interest. An aerial rope piece, in close proximity to the tables below, demonstrates her control and grace beautifully. She never descends, instead she waits, and rests above us, and turns the rope into a sling for her next stunning performance.

Ilona Jäntti in ‘Yablochkov Candle’ at Circomedia during Circus City 2017 IMAGE: Adam Gasson 

With this alone, I would urge you to see the show: an incredibly highly skilled aerialist with creative inginuity and ability to deliver seamless flows of thought. However, in addition to this, Jäntti surprises us with some unusual site- and set-specific explorations, coupled with unique and mildly humorous entrances. She delivers everything in a style that feels open and playful. She is not clowning, merely drawing us into her humanity.

Ilona Jäntti in ‘Yablochkov Candle’ at Circomedia during Circus City 2017 IMAGE: Adam Gasson 

The Yablochkov Candle soundtrack is composed largely by Aino Venna herself, with the exception of two songs. Venna’s deep, husky voice performs the songs with the same fluidity that styles the show. Her clear, lilting guitar playing fills the smoky cabaret scene, backed occasionally by the stylish playing of Michelson on the double bass or his precisely delivered vocal harmonies.

Intrigued by how Jäntti could find a natural close to the evening, after such demonstration of strength, stamina and surprising innovation, I was not disappointed. I left the venue stunned by her endless energy, excited by her ingenuity and melancholic from the longing ambience of the music. An amazing show.


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