Roundhouse, London – until 23 April 2017
Guest reviewer: Edward Gosling
Compagnie XY present It’s Not Yet Midnight…, a huge visual display, where 22 acrobats engage in flips, tumbles and handstands that reach almost to the very top of the Roundhouse (where it will be showing for the next 10 days). Inspired by themes of solidarity and community to oppose individualism it forgoes the traditional structure of a company hierarchy in favour of a collaborative approach.
There is a style that Compagnie XY use here that has come to define much of contemporary circus recently. Normal clothes (or lack of any discernible costume), stark simple lighting, no obvious plot but rather thematic impressions. Accompanied by stripped down music and a lot of falling on the floor in different ways. All these have become fairly ubiquitous and are in danger of feeling like a trope if they keep being utilised so frequently by so many companies.
The show’s strengths are numerous; performers have clearly been able to experiment and explore in creating a physical language to convey the action. Movements are daring, often unique and genuinely innovative, executed with the highest degree of skill and precision. It feels important that this show has a space to exist in order to allow this kind of exploration and it’s a noble aim to try to forge new work in a new way. Moments where four performers stand on each others shoulders towering above the audience, or where a teeterboard is used to launch them up into the air only to be caught expertly falling towards the floor, remind you of just how impressive circus can be.
Having said that, their greatest strengths are in many ways their greatest weaknesses. If asked what to expect from a company that champions collaboration rather than coordinated leadership, the obvious answer would be that the overall grand vision may suffer, with no one person there to take control.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly how this show comes across. At times messy, frequently overwhelming and failing to reach dramatic poignancy, it sometimes feels like they could have achieved far more with far less performers. Companies like Les 7 Doigts de la mains, or Circa do just this and very well. It’s a shame because the company emphasise that their approach seeks to build harmony between people and look for new ways of working together. I want this to succeed, but it ends up failing to deliver anything truly wonderful. It’s impressive without being particularly engaging. They may actually benefit from the very thing they have removed as it feels like something a good director could have edited to give it more shape and form.
Even if as a whole the show is incoherent, many of its parts are exceptional. The acrobatics are world-class and there are some individual moments where the sheer volume of performers make the most of their collective abilities. For the right show, the Roundhouse really is one of the most interesting, exciting venues imaginable and It’s Not Yet Midnight… mange to make full use of this wonderful space. This really is a great show to see if you want to witness just what the body is capable of.