Director: Lina Johansson
Composer : Quinta
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
From the moment you walk into the theatre, it is obvious why the new show from female-led contemporary circus company Mimbre is called The Exploded Circus. The set by Loren Elstein comprises objects one might expect to see in a circus – a trick bicycle, yards of lights, hoops, ropes and the like- all hanging suspended in mid-air as if the big top has just blown up.
However, in The Exploded Circus, it is not just the equipment that has been damaged. The troupe has lost confidence and has to learn how to work together as a team before the show can go on.
The Exploded Circus is a wonderfully ramshackle show from the opening of the troupe crawling from the wreckage of the circus tent to the closing moments of them taking flight in a Heath Robinson style aircraft. There is little in the show that is conventional; while other circuses may feature high-wire acts Mimbre have ‘slack rope’ performers – Alice Allart and Arielle Lauzon doing the splits upon, or hopping along, sagging lines of light bulbs that look so worn they are about to snap.
Director Lina Johansson uses the opening twenty minutes or so as a chaotic overture. One of the cast may be centre stage practicing their craft while in the background the rest of the troupe, in the guise of putting the set back together, perform excerpts from their acts. It is crowded and at times bewildering leaving the audience struggling to keep track of what is going on.
Quinta’s background music adds to the atmosphere of eccentricity. The tinny piano sound is familiar from fairgrounds and carnivals but sounds like it is being played at slightly the wrong speed as if the orchestra also was damaged in the explosion or has had a bit too much to drink.
The cast behave as an extended family –squabbling but ultimately helping each other out. Initially, Farrell Cox is compelled to perform on the aerial hoop when another cast member carelessly kicks away the boxes upon which she balanced. However, gradually the troupe learn to work together-initially in pairs and finally as a group forming a bizarre human pyramid on a moving bicycle.
Each of the cast has a distinct personality with Rebecca Rennison the diva of the group descending from the lighting rig in a fury of scarlet silk and strutting around the stage as if she is above the rest of the troupe. Coral Dawson is the eager-to-please daredevil in an aerial harness spun around the stage by the rest of the cast while Lynn Scott seems the shy younger sister who lacks confidence in her amazing juggling skills. Every circus needs a clown and Alice Allart and Arielle Lauzon compete for the role; the former staggering on-stage fag in hand sipping from her hip flask and the latter aspiring to be ringmaster but constantly taking pratfalls.
The Exploded Circus is gloriously silly and baffling – just like any family.