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This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/belonging-roundhouse-london/

This is a collaboration between Graeae which specialises in placing deaf and disabled artists in centre stage and Circo Crescer e Vivier, a social programme based in Rio de Janeiro focusing on circus performances. Part of CircusFest 2014, this brings together ten performances from both countries with their respective sign language interpreters. This is truly a cross culture and transboundary project that brings performers with various disabilities together.

The premise is that a house is to be demolished and the ex-residents are given fifteen minutes for a final visit but this is largely irrelevant as it is hardly referred to. The cast of British and Brazilian performers gathers and uses the space for various set pieces. A beautiful song from singer Sara Bentes who is also capable of some aerial work starts the show off. And it swiftly moves on to a touching dance with Andre Melo De Sousa in a wheelchair, whose speciality is silk aerial work and shows impressive upper body strength in the performance.

A signed segment on philosophical musing feels out of place and a little forced. While other passages in a mixture of English and Portuguese are alienating and confusing. Perhaps it is the intention to show to illustrate the confusion disabled people feel but this doesn’t come across as the main message. The audience is asked to define what belonging means and some definitions are read out during the show. Then follows an impressive dance sequence by Viviane Macedo in a wheelchair which whirls extremely close to the exposed toes of her dance partner making it more high stakes than it seems.

A scene of a mock fight between two performers on aerial hoops can suddenly hop to a 70s disco dancing scene. This sequence of scenes illustrates the unevenness in tone and flow of the whole show. The pace generally is leisurely and feels largely disjointed. This will be the responsibility of the directors Jenny Sealy, who co-created the opening ceremony of the Paralympics in London and Vinicius Daumas. It does not work as a show and feels like a series of workshopped scenes cobbled together. But at least, it is a show that can make fun of itself when play fighting ends with one taking another’s false leg off.

If it doesn’t succeed as a show, it is a triumph in bringing an eclectic mix of characters and personalities to share a stage. The short bursts of circus work by each performer are impressive but sadly are let down by the direction. The performers deserve better.

Photo: Patrick Baldwin

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