‘Absolutely flies by’: CIRCOLOMBIA – Underbelly Festival

In Circus, London theatre, Opinion, Reviews by Katharine KavanaghLeave a Comment

Underbelly Festival, London – until 14 July 2018

Circolombia regularly put on an exciting and entertaining show and, true to form, this year at the Underbelly Festival their self-titled offering is exhilarating, fun and family friendly. Whilst it’s not always perfectly polished, the show is no less an impressive demonstration of skill, and everyone on stage gives vibrant performances.

The show’s opening action feels a little slow, but this seems to be an intentional choice by director Felicity Simpson, as the intensity and stakes progress with each act. That aside, right away the live vocals from Diana Patricia Vargas Montoya and Lianna-Juliana Valentina Toro Velasquez pull us into the upbeat and infectious energy.

The triple rope section towards the start of the show gets off to a lovely start but, by the end of the act I was left wanting something more. Shortly later, however, an aerial duet complete with teeth-hang proves to be one of the night’s highlights. A mesmerising display of strength and grace from both performers is, moreover, the first time I’ve seen a teeth-hang based by a woman live.

Simpson’s words in the programme are certainly evident – this time around the women have been given much-deserveded piece of the spotlight. (That being said, although the banquine and Russian bar sections are impressive and engaging, I would have liked to see more from flyer Laura Patricia Tenorio Cuan, who seemed underutilised.)

Compared to the last time I saw them, the company seems to be experimenting more with relationships and thematic content in each act and overall. However, some banquine sections seemed detached from the other ‘emotive’ parts of the show… BUT I recognise acrobatics are a different game and incredibly tricky to complete safely and accurately without some breaks in continuity. Criticisms aside, energy levels throughout the show are consistently high and where there are lulls, dynamic acrobatics, teeterboard and banquine quickly raise the stakes once again.  Flyer Wilmer Andres Martinez is always jubilantly confident, especially when performing more technical tricks. The entire cast – at least on the surface – clearly enjoy performing together and also love pleasing the crowd. They are a joy to watch.

Julia Sanchez Aja performs with Circolombia
IMAGE: The Other Richard

The cloudswing act, performed by Julia Sanchez Aja is another favourite of mine. Last time I saw the company was at the Roundhouse, and today’s smaller and slightly more intimate venue seems to work in the act’s favour. I appreciate that the lunger is lit and communication between the two is acknowledged. The spoken word was clear and the aerialist’s audible breath gives a nice insight into the exertion of performing cloudswing. Moreover (correct me if I’m wrong!), I recall the singers are still going backstage during this act – the resulting mash of sounds is sonically interesting.

Later, I marvel at Francisco Javier Hurtado’s strength during the ring perch. While the audience cheer with each progression, the tension in the room is palpable – it has me holding my breath. The focus, control and precision – from both he and Sandra Ibanez Ramirez on top – is astounding.

Laura Lucia Lloreda Martinez and Cristian David Triviño Rincon (a.k.a. Duo Requiem) perform with Circolombia

Circolombia absolutely flies by and I welcome the post curtain-call action, as I leave with renewed energy and buzzed for more. English audiences can often be quite controlled and press night isn’t the easiest crowd to wow, but that doesn’t stop everyone getting out of their seats during the applause. If you’re looking to be reinvigorated, this show is well worth the ticket price.

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Katharine Kavanagh on FacebookKatharine Kavanagh on InstagramKatharine Kavanagh on TwitterKatharine Kavanagh on Youtube
Katharine Kavanagh
Katharine is a circus writer based in the Midlands, a handy travel hub for getting out and about to new and smaller-scale work. From a background as a performer, theatre-maker and circus volunteer, Katharine took part in the EU-funded 'Unpack the Arts' circus residency, set up The Circus Diaries website, and now dedicates herself to sharing the intricacies of circus art with the world.

She says: "Circus is an area of performing arts where few people have the vocabulary and understanding to write balanced critical appraisal. This tends to result in wishy-washy 'reviews' that all sound the same and say very little about the relative quality of the show.

"As the circus arts grow in popularity and engagement across the UK, it's important for critical voices to reflect this to increasingly discerning audiences. That's where I come in."
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Katharine Kavanagh on FacebookKatharine Kavanagh on InstagramKatharine Kavanagh on TwitterKatharine Kavanagh on Youtube
Katharine Kavanagh
Katharine is a circus writer based in the Midlands, a handy travel hub for getting out and about to new and smaller-scale work. From a background as a performer, theatre-maker and circus volunteer, Katharine took part in the EU-funded 'Unpack the Arts' circus residency, set up The Circus Diaries website, and now dedicates herself to sharing the intricacies of circus art with the world.

She says: "Circus is an area of performing arts where few people have the vocabulary and understanding to write balanced critical appraisal. This tends to result in wishy-washy 'reviews' that all sound the same and say very little about the relative quality of the show.

"As the circus arts grow in popularity and engagement across the UK, it's important for critical voices to reflect this to increasingly discerning audiences. That's where I come in."