Reviewer: Jo Beggs
A solitary audience member is taken through a locked door, into a bare breeze-block corridor which leads to the back of the Lyric stage. Through a second door, you’re plunged into the darkness of the stage, dark except for an empty trapeze glowing with soft golden light. A sharp line of light on the floor just inside the door marks where you should wait for your next move.
This is Ringside, a performance by circus performer Ellie Dubois, made to be experienced one-on-one and with little pre-knowledge or preamble. As such, this reviewer can only suggest not reading this review. At least, not until after you’ve crossed back over that line of light.
From behind a hand reaches out for yours. At first, it feels like a gloved hand, but it’s the powdery feel of chalk. Dubois leads you across the room in silence, positions you precisely, and precariously, close to the trapeze.
Standing below it, she locks eyes with you. It’s an intimate moment, and what could be unsettling actually seems to create an overwhelming sense of calm. With a little jump into the air she takes hold of the trapeze and pulls herself upwards. What follows is an intense few minutes as you watch her go through trapeze moves just inches away from you, much of the time looking you straight in the eye. This closeness sweeps away all the glamour of the circus. Her glitzy costume looks cheap and poorly put together, there are ladders and creases her flesh-coloured body suit. You can see the sweat forming in the creases of her face, the chalk underneath her fingernails. You can hear her every breath.
The relationship between viewer and performer changes with almost every move. Hanging by her feet or hands she seems fragile and vulnerable. Standing on the swing above you, she seems powerful and threatening. Occasionally her feet come dangerously close to your face.
Then, suddenly, she drops to the floor and is gone. You’re left standing in the dark room below the slowly swinging trapeze, slightly bereft. Rather overwhelmed.
Ringside lasts just ten minutes. It will stay in the memory for much longer.
Runs until 28 May 2017 | Image: Contributed