Controlled falling may sound like a contradiction in terms, but the members of contemporary circus company ThisSideUp Acrobatics proved otherwise.
Described in the program as Musical Director/Drummer, DavidJoseph’s role is in fact the unifying force in the show. Sometimescreating percussion on a wheelie bin, other times painstakinglydocumenting circular movements on a ‘drawing machine’, oreven performing a miniature balancing act of his own (involving smallplastic figurines teetering on his nose), Joseph is always in thebackground holding the show together by providing a narrative thread.
Thefirst real ‘trick’ in the show is stunning: three men balancing on theirhands, supported only by each other and five metal chairs, four of whichare balancing on only two legs, on an angle. It seems to defy gravity,let alone common sense, but then the scientific frame of the showreminds us that these men are in fact working with gravity rather thanagainst it, and experimenting with its limits. As the acrobats put thefinal touch on this act, they look towards the audience fromtheir precarious, upside down positions and a grin breaks out on threevery red faces, revealing a healthy sense of humour and an obviousenjoyment in what they are doing. This simple facial expression draws inthe audience and makes us feel that we are sharing their experienceinstead of merely observing it.
After some initialgroup acrobatics that explore the basic concept of controlled fallingwith humour and skill, James Brown stars in the Russian bar routine,where he performs astounding acrobatic tricks on a flexible bar heldhorizontally by his two fellow acrobats. Later in the show, all threework together with extraordinary cooperation and intuition on aspringboard routine in which each man must jump and land at exactly theright moment and then must be immediately ready to catch his partner toensure a safe landing.
While just about every minute of theshow was exciting, my favourite act was Brown’s dance like routine witha large hoop which spun as he moved around inside it: the fluidity,grace and agility with which he moved was breathtaking and uplifting,bringing a welcome beauty and softness to the show. Nevertheless, it wasa beauty produced only by remarkable physical control, which is reallywhat this show was all about.
Although the acrobatic tricks wouldhave created an amazing spectacle on their own, the tinydetails incorporated into the show made it more than just a circus show.The plastic strongman figurines, wooden crash dummies and intricatemachines added subtlety to a performance which was more than a series ofstunts. And the fact that the acrobats could make fun of themselvesadded to their charm: although they could balance on their hands andthrow themselves into the air, not one of them could manage to throw hisfedora successfully onto the hatstand, despite numerous attemptsthroughout the show!
The only disappointment in this performancewas the ending, which seemed rather flat and uncertain due to acombination of the background music and the choreography, neither ofwhich indicated that the show was about to end. A performance as full ofadrenaline, tension and release as this cried out for a definitive andsatisfying ending.
ThisSideUp acrobatics have found a definiteniche for themselves in the circus world and I look forward to theirfuture projects with curiosity and excitement.
Controlled Falling Project
Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall | 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Dates: Wednesday 15 - Sunday 19 April
Times: Wed – Fri at 7.30pm, Sat at 2pm and 7.30pm, Sun at 6pm
Tickets: $25 / $18
Bookings: www.artshouse.com.au or (03) 96390096
More info: www.thissideupacrobatics.com