Roundhouse, London – until 23 April 2017
Compagnie XY live and work together, sharing each other’s rhythms and routines. The work they make as a collective captures this ebb and flow of human energy and emotion within a larger group rather than the individual, reflecting their chosen lifestyle. In their latest piece, an impressive twenty-two acrobats fight, flirt and fly through the after-work dusk, but It’s Not Yet Midnight… peaks too soon and winds down with the whisper of mid-week fatigue rather than the frenzied collapse following a blinding night out.
The bare stage is quickly populated by pairs of people scuffling; the earthy shoving and falling of pub brawls multiplies until it becomes a dance, or a riot, or both. Dressed in neutral coloured, smart-casual clothes rather than more typical circus spandex, this could be a nightclub alley, the tube or a dance floor. The choice is refreshing in its inspiration from the everyday rather than deliberate spectacle.
Instead of descending into outright violence, the collective movement flows into something more gentle. The precarious fluctuation between violence and care is delightful, hinting at the risk and suspense that comes later. The action quickly moves into the air – flips and throws are fun and celebratory, and no doubt deceptively complex despite their apparent ease. They evolve into more risky moves of towers of people three and four-high, head balancing and small groups whose arial flips cross mid-air. A few slips and stumbles indicate the risk is real, if controlled.
There isn’t a defined narrative, but there is a journey of human experience and freedom from daytime constraints. The transitions are subtle and easy, with acts flowing into each other and giving the impression of a real-time journey. A distinct climax never occurs though, and the slowing pace that eventually leads to stillness disorientates and is rather unsatisfying. There are numerous wonderful moments that make this forgivable, though.
Though the number of performers is impressive, asymmetrical choreography that fills the stage means it’s impossible to take in each moment at any given time. A couple dancing in the foreground may hold focus until a body flies through the air near the back. Combined with a quick pace, it stylises real life and means that everyone will see different moments. As interesting as this is, it’s also frustrating and the stage often looks cluttered.
The homage to the everyday and the joy in which its executed make this work a sensual pleasure to take in despite its shortcomings. It’s a great showcase of the possibilities of contemporary circus.