Dance/Circus Review – Traces

Feb 3 2010 | By More

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Festival Theatre
Review by Thom Dibdin

Gritty and witty, Canadian outfit Les 7 Doigts de la Main arrive at the Festival Theatre with a piece of circus-dance that wears its contemporary urban credentials loud on its sleeves.

Traces, we find out in the second half of the show, is set in a bunker where five people are whiling away the time until what could be the apocalyptic hour. Meanwhile, they use words and acrobatics to tell small intimacies of themselves – and hopefully leave the tiniest trace of their lives.

Antoine and Genevieve in their hand to hand routine

Which might not be even the slenderest thread of a plot – but at least serves as a concept within which to frame the performers’ circus skills. And the grungy set, dominated by a pair of vertical bars and a row of seats in various states of collapse on which the performers lounge between turns, certainly has that air of impending doom.

Importantly, it is a concept which allows the audience to relate to the performers on a personal level that is impossible to achieve in the slick, glossy Chinese style circus-based companies. Brought out from behind the glitzy lighting and skin-tight leotards, the performers become proper characters. Their acrobatics and tricks appear achievable while, conversely, also carrying an extra edge.

The routines grow quite naturally out of the situation. The five – two Antoines, Jonathan, Genevieve and Philip – might be hanging out throwing a basketball around or playing a couple of tunes on the piano, when suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a full-blown explosion of tumbling, throwing, teeter-boarding or hoop jumping.

It can go wrong, too. They operate at the edges of their abilities in the early stages. So the finale of Antoine 2’s early routine with Genevieve, that is partly dance exploration of their relationship and part hand to hand balancing acrobatic routine, is just a slip away from perfection.

A slip that is still in mind for the truly spectacular backwards flips between the tops of the vertical bars that come up in later routines. These are moves that would already have the audience gasping in horror, but the knowledge that a slip could actually occur makes them all the more tantalising.

Pleasingly, there is rather less of the laddish machismo displayed by the Australian circus companies who dominated last year’s Fringe. If there isn’t quite the same level of intensity that the antipodeans bring to their circus it makes up for it by being a lot less brash.

Les 7 Doigts de la Main first brought this show to Edinburgh in the Fringe of 2007. The five new performers have found their own intimacies to bring to the performance and make it their own.

Run ends Wednesday 3 February
Festival Theatre Website

Les 7 Doigts de la Main website

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