Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Stefan and Cristina exist side by side. Their relationship has boundaries, defined by juggle balls down the centre of the stage. Through a series of engagements and interactions those boundaries are worn down, thrown around and ultimately dispensed with in a high calibre performance that consistently demonstrates their skill but fails to ignite more than passing interest in the result of their relationship.
Stefan can juggle and Cristiana can dance. Both have undeniably excellent skills which are displayed slowly in their work as solo artists and then as the balls are passed between their imaginary wall more as a duo. The high level of skill is not, unfortunately equalled by their skill in putting together an intriguing full hour of work. We have them using the juggle balls to demonstrate how the balls as an object are a visual metaphor for being held, passed over and they become a language between them. Unfortunately I was left struggling with what they wanted to say.
The design was highly functional and one of the major weaknesses was that in a studio space with raked seating anything on the floor near the front of the stage cannot be seen by those of us further back. I don’t think it spoilt my enjoyment of the piece as their performance had many repetitive moments to help us catch up.
What I simply cannot fault is the skill level enjoyed. Stefan is much taller than Cristiano but matches her in the grace with which he teases with his moves without the juggle ball before showing us what it would look like with it. Cristiano has exquisite movement and the grace and poise that she brings to this piece is an absolute delight. Now here’s the thing – this was obvious within the very first few minutes of the show and when you are shown repeatedly you need something more to go on. The narrative needs to take over whilst the spectacular almost becomes the norm. I was enthralled by their performances but lost in the attention to where their relationship as going. I got a tentative start followed by teasing and then passion before a fall out and finally some form of reconciliation. And yet there were moments of utter joy – where Stefan sues Cristiana as a marionette; when she becomes transformed into a bird in a cage; their game of anything you can do; and when she behaves as the bouncing ball. I just wish they had third voice calling from the sidelines to give direction.
The music that was used was more than adequate for their purpose but a graceful underpinning melody on which they performed; I particularly liked the Glockenspiel piece. It was gentle, nudging and made us want to see more. The lighting was used to similarly great effect and focussed our attentions when needed.
The audience were highly appreciative though sparse for this morning performance. As a performance piece it had a lot to add to the cannon of circus, movement and the boundaries of physical theatre; as such it lives up to its publicity. I just wish they had shaved 20 minutes off it and kept it tight.