Edinburgh Fringe 2019
The quartet of performers, aged from 13 to 60, create a succession of intricately balanced aerial poses on specially designed trapeze-like frames. Using just their bodies, in groups and solo, these vistas alternate with static solo confessional storytelling. Some of the story themes and emotions are reflected in creating the aerial depictions.
There are many new incarnations of circus, hybridizing specific circus skills with other genres and art forms. What is rare with Ockham’s Razor’s new show, This Time, is the combining of autobiographical storytelling with an intricately, slowly evolving form of trapeze-based balancing. No big dramatic, fast-moving swinging between trapezes here. Rather, deliberate, methodically evolving aerial balances on oblong trapeze-like frames, which aim to echo, reflect and comment on some of the themes in the stories. The aerial elements are like a live creation of ever-moving paintings, symbolising story elements, using human bodies as the medium. The storytelling happens solo, usually centre stage, standing still and talking directly to the audience. The stories are very personal tales, mostly of parenting and ageing with their associated and often very moving challenges and dilemmas. The storytelling is dominated by the two adult women whose stories largely focus on the birth of their children and the aftermaths, with outcomes that could not be more different, and both of which clearly resonated strongly with the audience.
The aerial balances and vistas presented are certainly impressive, not least as two of the performers are outside the usual age range for such stunts, one being a 13 year old girl (Faith Fahy), the other a 60 year old woman (Lee Carter), and the quartet is 75% female, something also rare in aerial acrobatics. Co-artistic directors of the company, Charlotte Mooney and Alex Harvey, who are also life partners, complete the quartet who in differing combinations are repeatedly hoisted aloft on the frames, climbing over each other in ever-changing depictions of mutual support, physically and symbolically. There are more aerial displays than is possible to itemise here, but one that has stayed with me, early on in the show, is when all four are high above the church floor (no safety net) taking turns to be the one supporting all or part of the group. Sometimes it was the older woman supporting the child, at other times this role was reversed with the crucial support coming from the youngest in the group. This for me captured beautifully the way members of families and close friendship groups surprise each other at times of need when they step up to the plate and become the keystone for group survival. It spoke of how sometimes it is the one we least expect who is the tower of strength. The show is full of such moments of impressive iconography.
The other star of the show is the sound track, created by Max Reinhardt and Chioma Uma, a rich, varied and visceral presence enriching the whole hour.
The relationship between the storytelling and aerial acrobatics was sometimes ironically out of balance, with one or two storytelling sections, given their static nature, seeming over long, one lasting more than fifteen minutes. Consequently, with so much story information in one delivery, the physical theatre that followed couldn’t do justice to the huge quantity of life events that had just been shared and left me wanting a greater connection between the stories and the physical aerial ballets being constructed. More frequent alternation between story and physical theatre, and more movement from the storytellers might have solved this. The other pity was that we never heard the youngest performer speak; given how instrumental she was in some of the physical theatre, this jarred, But these observations do not detract from a remarkable, thought-provoking and innovative fusion of genres that deserves to be seen.