Writer: Hattie Naylor
Music: Ted Barnes
Director: Claire Hodgson, Billy Alwen
Extraordinary Bodies has produced a theatre experience with a difference. Human encompasses circus performance, film, dance and live music. On stage, four performers tell stories from their lives over the last 24 months through the pandemic and from their childhoods. The fifth performer, John Kelly, speaks and sings to the audience from the video screen. A main theme throughout is referred to as ‘The Magical Place of Uncertainty’. Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the performing arts with cancelled shows, festivals and events. Throughout all that uncertainty about lack of income and how the future would pan out, they have created Human; what it is to be human.
There is an emphasis on it being presented as a relaxed performance. Each member of the audience is provided with wireless headphones with the intention of making the sound more vibrant and personal. An extra channel gives access to an audio description. The comfortable headsets are given with kind support from Silent Disco King.
There is a BSL translation and performance by David Ellington. His entertaining, animated performance is in the corner of the screen throughout the performance. The actors’ words are also captioned. The audio description is pre-recorded and often lags behind what is happening on stage, not to mention getting left and right wrong, plus it was lacking during some of the film sequences. The audio description of the trapeze sequences tends to be technical rather than conveying the poetry and art of the aerial ballet.
Extraordinary Bodies consist of a small cast of talented disabled and non-disabled performers. There is a visual story available beforehand for those who might find it helpful to access a performance. It is an Arts Council England supported touring project and funding has been available from the National Lottery Emergency Fund.
The storytelling is lyrical. It is amusing as the performers describe their favourite sweets, explore the common thread of uncertainty in their lives and the joy that love can give. The stories are told of the many ‘small moments that shape us’. However, these many vignettes can lead to confusion and lack of cohesion.
There is some superb trapeze and rope work performed by Tilly Lee-Kronick, Alfa Marks, Jonny Leitch and the character Graziella. The circus performances mirror and express the emotions in the stories. It is a gentle, unconventional theatre experience.
Extraordinary Bodies is a collaboration between Cirque Bijou and the charity Diverse City. It is achieving its aim to make a ‘world of possibility’ by ‘inspiring a fairer and more inclusive world’.
Reviewed on 19th May 2022. Touring nationwide.