Melbourne Fringe 2016

The Elements of Consequence, Melbourne Fringe 2016

0 Comments 19 September 2016

Words by Eleanor Boydell

For me, some of the best shows are those in which you see the labour of performers, as they rise to physical challenges, grapple with mental barriers, surpass expectations. It’s hard to lift humans, nail handbalances, spin hoops – I want to see the work. It’s exciting when it all goes right. Sometimes, the most seamless and effortless of performances are the least affecting.

In The Element of Consequence, the audience is invited to delight in the struggle. A collaboration of Anna Murray and After Dark Theatre, the show explores the elements of tension and danger inherent in circus, and toys with the consequence of mishap and error. With a bare stage and minimal props, four female acrobats offered up perfectly choreographed chaos that kept us gaping and laughing for the full hour of their fast-paced and exquisitely timed show.

This wasn’t an example of circus theatre – self reflectively, the theme of the performance was circus itself. The show was filled with carefully composed “accidents” that served to emphasise just how much work goes into getting it right. The four performers demonstrated incredible versatility and solid foundations in circus skills, and elegantly resolved those few accidents which were unintended. Care, precision and tension were placed into each and every move – from the most basic acts of chewing an apple or tying a shoelace to impressive and brilliantly executed feats of tumbling, acrobalance, aerials, and manipulation. The drama was heightened by a diverse and powerful soundtrack, unaided by dialogue with the exception of a single disdainful utterance: “That one had your feet on it” (you heard me right). The few quiet and slow moments emphasised the real finesse of the performers, and were poignant offerings of relief in a show that risked exhausting its audience with its pace, power and tension.

‘Playful’ might be the best word to capture The Element of Consequence. The way the four women moved together evoked the games of the schoolyard – as a perfectly executed handstand was casually knocked over, as a prop was stolen, as a skill was competitively outdone. The troupe used familiar items to demonstrate their skill, with one of the highlights the partner manipulation of a single apple, passed and thrown between two performers in the most convoluted ways imaginable (why use a hand when you could use a knee crook?). A pile of clothing was thrown into the space for a comedic acrobatic dressing scene – slightly disappointingly in a show that otherwise wasn’t distracted by tropes of femininity, but I can’t pretend it didn’t make me laugh. Disparate acts were all held together by strong visual and thematic cohesion.

The best part? Their faces. Each of the four artists had impeccable stage presence, and through their expressive faces shared with us the effort balancing on a pole, the discomfort of having someone clamber on your head, and the excitement and amazement of nailing a trick – which, for the audience, was a joy to share.

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