CIRCUS DIARIES at #edfringe: Perhaps Hope by Company Here And Now

In Cabaret, Circus, Edinburgh Festival, Festivals, Opinion, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland by Katharine KavanaghLeave a Comment

Beauty, Underbelly Circus Hub, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 16th August 2016

It’s rare to find non-narrative contemporary circus work that develops a theme beyond the generic human condition. In Perhaps Hope, the debut production from Company Here And Now (previously titled Perhaps There Is Hope Yet), Vincent Van Berkel and Rockie Stone present a dramatic musing on climate change.

In their native Australia, the effects of climate change are currently felt more keenly than here in Europe, and the politics surrounding the issue are more prominent. Perhaps Hope takes a three-phase approach, working with cycles of material that take us from an attitude of mild disinterest, through attempts at salvation, to a struggle for survival after the point of no return. Danger and drama levels increase incrementally, almost so we don’t notice – until it’s too late, tellingly.

The excellently crafted sound design includes a collage of texts that’s integral to the otherwise wordless piece, interspersed with sounds of nature or The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the brilliant Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman‘. There’s a valuable lightness to the compilation of public service bulletins, wildlife programme narration, news reports and vocal climate change deniers, that gives us access into the potentially dry subject. Likewise, a pre-recorded introduction from the artists, played as they stand, holding each other’s hand in the spotlight, offers a chance for us to connect to their humanity before they launch into the first physical cycle (although telling us directly what the show is about may be a blunter instrument than necessary).

Rocky Stone and Vincent Van Berkel in ‘Perhaps Hope’ IMAGE: Karen Lowe

The initial round of acrobatic images is obtuse and it’s with hindsight, as we watch the creeping intensity that develops later, that we begin to see their sense. There are sounds of rain, glints of light on green glass bottles, edges of limbs and shining macintosh. There’s a curve of wood, sometimes a boat, sometimes a precipice, a more domestic version of the ‘banana’ teeterboard adaptation seen in Magmanus’ Attached. Stone loses herself dancing to the music on her headphones, contrasting with the slowness and formal lines of Van Berkel on his hand-balance canes.

Vincent Van Berkel in ‘Perhaps Hope’: IMAGE: Ben MacMahon

Later, her dancing becomes more frenzied, bursts of her REM music choice more pronounced; Van Berkel adds tilt into his hips, his knees, his elbows. We watch the destabilisation of the ecological balance we knew through their bodies.

At the back of the stage is a kinetic sculpture of metal, designed by Callan Morgan, that evokes the pumpjack structures of the fossil fuel industry, or the wind turbines of the sustainable energy drive. Set into full spinning motion towards the end of the show, another interpretation of its movements appears as the outer attachments start to turn like human limbs, running, getting nowhere.

‘Perhaps Hope’, by Company Here And Now IMAGE: IneptGravity

As Stone and Van Berkel propel us into a dark future, the concept of hyperobject narrative is introduced. The shifting of the earth’s climate – whether fueled by our species or otherwise – will not destroy the planet. It may just destroy its ability to sustain human life, and there may be nothing we can do about that. From a precarious perch atop the upended ark, Stone launches into the abyss but is, somehow, caught. In this way, the pair leave us with, perhaps, hope. Their show is a dextrous reflection on humanity’s future upon a planet whose climate is changing.

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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 RssKatharine 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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