Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Flying drum kits, levitating ironing boards and swinging divas. Welcome to the world of the unexpected! Irreverent and silly, bold and breathtaking, take flight with Flown for a captivating afternoon at the circus.
Combining circus techniques with cabaret, musical performances and farcical comedy, Flown is very much a family show. It’s simple enough to wow the kids, but there’s enough in there for the parents that it can’t really be classified as a children’s show.
The main problem is that it doesn’t really settle into the comfortable, Pixar-like space of being both adult and child-friendly, and instead floats in a kind of awkward hinterland. Jokes like the “accidentally” broken lighting rig and the leading lady’s repeated failures onstage will probably only be funny to the under-10s, while her dark-humour monologues about IBS and career worries seem curiously out of kilter with the chirpy mood of the overall show.
The performers, however, are multi-skilled and occasionally mesmerising. One aerialist takes flight with an ironing board as her dance partner, while two others leap up and down the mast of a ship to a soundtrack of mournful folk songs. The live music is a particular highlight here, ranging from guitar rock to whimsical a capella vocals to a booming, Tom Waits-style song as the finale. Also, the gravity-defying wire work isn’t just limited to the physical performers. Every person onstage is hooked up to a harness, allowing the musicians to take flight as well.
Most of the cast are funny and captivating, but the variety show format has its flaws. Everyone is given their chance to shine (even the glitzy, ill-fated diva and her many failed attempts at stardom), but the format also highlights the few weak links. While the acrobats are impressive and regularly elicited gasps and applause from the audience, one section in particular seemed out of place. Why include a minutes-long monologue of a man telling us about his girlfriend while walking a tightrope? Still, he made up for it with the flying drum kit.
In the end, Flown is definitely entertaining, but needs to go one way or the other: theatre or circus. The circus skills are charming, practised and often impressive, but the attempts at storytelling fall flat thanks to the lack of a cohesive structure or narrative. Still, it provides an accessible, more intimate alternative to the many high-octane circus shows currently on at the Fringe.