Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Natalie Inside Out is a collaboration between hand-balancer Natalie Reckert and digital artist – and former circus artist – Mark Morreau. The show builds on the circus skills of Reckert and investigates and illuminates them using digital technologies, examining the relationship between the body as performance and reality, teasing at the seams where live acrobatics, film and digital performance intersect. The show is supported in part by The Lowry’s ‘Developed With’ programme.
Using spoken word, Reckert also interrogates the strata of the body as performance, illuminating from her own perspective how the body is an organic machine inseparable from emotion and motivation – and also how, through training, activity, learning, memory and just life in general the body becomes a repository of lived life and experience. Reckert talks of how snakes shed their skin to externally renew and give them room to grow but people live within the same skin, which moves, and breathes and ages and becomes a record of experience.
Reckert has been creating full-length shows using hand balancing, robotic movement and text since 2007. The hand balancing itself is outstanding. Talking about it and demonstrating through video and just doing it, Reckert outlines the experience her body goes through. But also her experience not only as the operator of her own body but as the emotional intellect present within it. Explaining at which points her shoulders begin to ache and when sweat blurs her vision and identifying the pivot points and crucial moments of balance and effort in doing a 180 degree sidebend, is combined with the moments when she feels completely at ease, but also how she imagines her limbs as carbon fibre, her torso as steel: how she mentally builds on strength, training and muscle memory with imagination and an inner superhero narrative.
The programme notes mention the ‘mediatised’ body and the appropriation of the body through social media: she mentions some of the ill-thought comments on her YouTube channel, where people feel free to make observations on her skills and her body without knowledge or consideration.
Once you have seen the moves, Morreau may then add live video or digital imagery projected alongside or over her which, with the addition of music, creates some stunning images and completely remystifyies through movement and theatre and skill what has been demystified through words. The show constantly plays with what is performance, how that is heightened by technology and ‘theatre’ and what it is to be human in the presence of others and their watching eyes.
The relationship between Reckert and Morreau is amiable and engagingly informal. He also adds memories of his grandparents, who came from Manchester, and how his grandmother would carve the Sunday roast with the medical knives and bone saws passed to her from her GP father. Morreau himself inherited his great-great-grandfather’s brass microscope, and his fascination with the possibilities and changing terrain and perspective of this is clearly what fuels his inquisitive eye as a filmmaker and digital artist.
Natalie Inside Out makes full use of Reckert as an acrobat but the show is more wide-ranging and questioning than that, picking through the bones of performance, experience, physicality, memory and imagination in a relaxed and thoughtful way, making use of comedy, theatre, lecture, poetry and memory as well as circus. More TED Talk than Cirque du Soleil; but a little bit of that.
Reviewed on 20 April 2018 | Image: Contributed