Thursday, October 2, 2008

Review: Scattered Tacks

Performed and Devised by Skye Gellman, Terri Cat Silvertree and Alex Gellman
Festival Hub, Rehearsal Room
Until 11th October

Without wanting to unduly raise your expectations, this is magnificent. I had no expectations going into this, I saw it because a show I was supposed to be seeing was cancelled. And boy, was that fortuitous. 
From the opening I found this to be totally compelling. 
The three performers / devisers work against the performative history of circus to create something weird, silent and non-theatrical in a traditional sense. The minutia of their performances are heightened and sit in the foreground, the tricks receeding and becoming byproducts. Some moments seemed purely voyeuristic - on the one hand you're watching something that is a private moment, on the other a quite incredible trick is pulled off. But the the performer looks straight at you. Not challenging - somehow submissive. And it forces you to reassess your presence. 
And this is their feat, and it is by no means a small one. To reverse the paradigm of traditional circus, to dare you passively not to look. To emphasise the elements normally glossed over. 
Whilst the tricks are excellent, they are not what matters here. And this moves circus into a  newer, more theatrical area, I suppose in that sense it is somewhat aligned with 'Acrobat'.
The experience was that of a series of vignettes and resonant images, lit largely by the harsh, isolated light of head mounted LEDs (and you know how I love LEDs), exaggerating the performers' seemingly translucent skin and ethereal, almost over-exposed appearance. 
There are some fantastic moments of the performers forcing your attention to a tiny detail - the sound of a bowling ball that is being rolled around and balanced upon, picked up through an onstage mike held close, or their final trick, only seen by a couple of short flashes of their LEDs.
There is a convention amongst a circus audience to applaud tricks which was quite uncomfortable here. It never really took off and was always quite sparse and self-conscious. In itself, that is a credit to the show - it really is absorbing and the silence that fell on the audience was total, apart from those sporadic moments of obligatory applause. 
I understand the need to applaud, particularly if you have a vocabulary for this kind of performance and understand the degree of skill that the performers are utilising, for me though, this sat more comfortably in the world of theatre than circus. And the applause broke the tension and was too intrusive. It threatens to destroy the strange, delicate little world that these performers had done so well to create. 
This left me quite exhilarated.
Without wanting to sound presumptuous, I would probably go if I were you.


Anonymous said...

Right, that's one glowing review too many for me to resist.

I'm going.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was terrible, most of the people walked out when I went....10 minutes of watching a girl eating an onion doesnt really class as entertainment as far as i am concerned!

Martin White said...

Anon, thanks for posting. Amazingly polar view to my own! Perhaps the late time-slot at the Fringe, or even the Venue (Bosco tent?) contribute to the world not being compelling. I certainly didn't know what hit me when I saw it and was absorbed into it wholly. Like so much water to a rock-dry sponge.
Was she really eating an onion for ten minutes. It didn't feel anywhere near that long to me.