Over half term (last week) I spent a few days in London and on friday I was fortunate enough to catch Swedish circus group Cirkus Cirkor with their performance of 'Inside Out' at the Peacock Theatre (Sadler's Wells sister theatre). It reminded me, once again, the value of staying for both halves of a show, even if the 1st half didn't quite do it for you...you just never know what is going to happen.
At the interval my friend, Jessamin, and I were unsure. We both agreed that as dancers this definitely influenced the way we viewed the work, and I'm sure if we were not involved in dance we would have enjoyed it a lot more - I could sense the audience's enjoyment. But for us it meant we were constantly asking why, why are they doing that? what is the reason for that? etc etc, which is not the best way to approach a circus.
I could appreciate individual performances and the physical impressiveness of the tricks. Fefe Deijfen was perfect in his role of excitable white clown, and could balance on a stack of about six chairs piled sky high, while Anna Lagerkvist took our breath away with her unbelievable free fall drops down a huge pole, stopping herself inches from the ground with the power of her leg muscles. But getting between scenes was unnecessarily long, and didn't say much. In fact it was often quite confusing, new relationships appeared out of no where with characters that had previously been secondary.
The show is, according to the program, 'a circus show about something as simple as life' and inside features a quote about the soul (interestingly from wikipedia), both of which are pretty complex to convey. Which is perhaps why the narrative didn't quite work in this context. People don't go and see circus shows to find the meaning of life or for the story, they go to see tricks and have a good time. On the other hand circus performers are good at tricks, they are not so good at acting or subtlety (they left pauses after tricks for applause a concept I found very alien - looking at the audience and waiting for the applause). For me I could see that there was meaning there, but it got lost under everything else that was going on.
There was also one character that I really didn't like. She was introduced as the 'oldest tight rope walker alive' and her costume made her appear to have long grey leg hair and facial hair. I found her character stereotypical, negative and really not funny. I just wished she would stop coming back on stage.
But despite all my thoughts of the first half I agreed with the standing ovation the show received and Jessamin and I left loving it.
The show was saved in the second half by the most amazing combination of live sound and juggling I have ever seen. Suddenly everything worked. The narrative disappeared, and the relationships made sense - four men on stage simply connected by the fact they were all working together.
Juggler Jay Gillian was practically flawless in his complex juggling tricks, while his cool performance drew me. The whole show had been accompanied by a live band, 'Ira's Playground', and for the juggling scene drummer Erik Nilsson soloed, producing a soundtrack of frantic drums and vocal sound, mostly screams and gobbledy gook, that worked perfectly with the tricks and creating a very energetic atmosphere. White clown Fefe, mentioned earlier, and acrobat Jens Engman completed the team to make sure the everything was in the right place for Jay, as well as adding their own special energy.
After that scene all was forgotten - we loved them!
I think its a shame 'Inside Out' got a little bit lost in its narrative, because, as they showed with the juggling scene, Cirkus Cirkor can get it 100% right. And for this reason I will be keeping my eye out for their next show.