This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.
Six strapping men dressed only in skillfully wrapped towel nappies that manage to hang on through an hour of acrobatics, and only just. Their forte is the French Swing, a modified version of the Russian Swing with a smaller platform, giving it a portability that is utilised to the full. When anchored, it showcases jaw dropping eight meter acrobatic leaps into the air, landing on a cushioned mat. And very useful for a game of swing dodging that is more high stakes than it seems.
Balance work that brings in planks of wood to give some elevation and show off their inventiveness with the section nicely rounded off with a single toppling action bringing them all down. The bread and butter acrobatic work is playful and childlike. The hand to hand work is competent and the playfulness comes through by modifying it to hand to face balancing or wince inducing hand to crotch hand stands, which at least make sense of the towel nappies providing adequate padding. The towels also acknowledge the homoeroticism that inevitably exists in a male circus troupe. This culminates in some towel whipping, not least when one of them is precariously balanced on a tripod of wood.
This French sextet met at National Circus School of Rosny-Sous-Bois and went on together to train at the University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm. Their long association and training show through their work with a fluid understanding and chemistry. This means the show is not only a collection of individual sets of impressive spectacles, but a flowing continuous piece of theatre. There are elements of mime and physical comedy which allow for mistakes, deliberate or otherwise, to be disguised and not to interrupt the overall flow. The production is barely supported by a minimal soundtrack, with members of the company singing and playing the saxophone and guitar. The silent parts can lack atmosphere but remain true to the minimalistic feel to the show.
It may not be the most daring or fear inducing show there is but it is complete, in the sense that it is thematically and technically coherent which is not easy to achieve. And a great start to the Circus Fest 2014 at the Roundhouse.
Photo: Ben Hopper