Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Brave Space

Aloft in association with Underbelly

Genre: Circus, Immersive

Venue: Underbelly's Circus Hub on the Meadows


Low Down

There is a white round shape in the centre of a Spiegel tent. Underneath things are moving. As we, as an audience, crowd round the outside of it, there is a structure, made of scaffolding, created within to allow someone to emerge and they are raised above us. They are now outside. That structure starts to lift the white sheet higher up like a tent. Some of us are invited in, until all of us are taken inside the tent, cautiously at first until the white fabric becomes our own circus tent and there are hoops, silks, ropes, juggling and balancing to entertain us, until it is time to come out our cocoon.
Any primary or kindergarten teacher shall tell you that this was reminiscent of parachute games, you play with the younger ones. Massively popular, they involve such brilliant distractions as shark and keeping the ball in the middle. Here it was elevated to a new level, and there were two significant factors that made this successful.


Firstly, this is undoubtedly an amazing group of performers. Despite a couple of moments when the juggling was not quite as on point as it ought, the balancing was impressive, silk work also, and the aesthetic means of working the crowd – they engaged with us really well. Given the physical restrictions they imposed on themselves it was the balance work and the silk/rope work which, for me worked the best. Juggling felt more representational and had an element of show rather than performing – very much due to the physical limitations. I also, however loved some of the hoop work, but began to find that limit restricting my expectations as well as the effects of the performance.
Secondly, it was aware of its own theatricality. It needed to have sufficient regard to the ideas of presenting itself. To that end, they deliberately had the pace slow enough to get us under, safe enough to make sure that the scaffolding was securely built and engaging enough to include the audience on giving them their props or holding the poles up. It was a theatrical experience from the beginning till the end.
What worked less well, was that the ponderous drawing us in, was less pacy than it needed to be. The beginning, outside with instructions, of getting us in through the doors, standing at the edge of the fabric and then slowly all of us into the tent was a fair old time taken out of the hour we had planned to share together – but, in many ways, there was nothing else for it.
There were also times when handing props from one performer to another, via an audience member was done because it included the audience member rather than having a distinct reason behind it. It meant that much of the performance was about the set up and less about the pop of performing.
And then there was the odd ending. There was no finale aside from one performer getting to the top of our tent and then drawing the white tent off us. There was a final tableaux but given what we had seen with some pretty fancy footwork, this felt like a bit of a let-down. It could also do with an injection of pace throughout.
To be fair, they did have our comfort in mind, and you could kneel, lie down, sit up or stand at various times to see what you can see. As a man of a certain age, I nearly had to ask everyone to leave before I could get myself up from lying down, as not all of the various yoga positions I found myself in were comfy. But that truly is an age thing. And a reminder to get fitter.
It was a really pleasant hour in this very able company’s company, and I left with the feeling that there had been a show opening up the idea that this company had better to give. I wish that I had seen more of that ability but of what I had seen, I would thoroughly recommend people go and have a look – it’s pretty impressive when in full flow.


Show Website