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FringeReview UK 2018

Low Down

Premiered this weekend at the The Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, the London-based, all-female acrobatic company, Mimbre, has created The Exploded Circus to celebrate the 250th anniversary of circus. Mimbre specialises in taking contemporary circus out-of-the-box, taking its performances to unusual spaces and targeting a wide variety of audiences.

Featuring a heady mix of acrobatics, aerial feats and juggling, The Exploded Circus weaves a story told without words, in which six female performers come together to seek order in chaos and create a new normal.


The audience experience of The Exploded Circus begins as they take their seats in front of the purpose-made, self-standing rig, hung with bike parts, a horse head, a teapot, a bucket and a chaotic range of other random paraphernalia suspended in mid air. The lighting is low and there’s a hint of dusty dry ice. To the sound of the waltz and the tango of the circus, there’s an eerie sense that time has frozen in the aftermath of a disaster, but that the music somehow plays on.

When the story begins, it’s a simple one, exploring human dissonance and individuality, moving through to harmony and the potential of a new world. This is reflected in the way the performers work with the props – gradually they are reorganised and reassembled until they come together magnificently at the end of the performance. There’s an attention to detail in the direction and overall vision and design of this show that’s very impressive.

The initial chaos was so well conceived that it literally gave me a headache. There was so much going on at the beginning of the piece all over the set that the audience didn’t know where to look – the performers were each doing their own thing, getting in each other’s way, demanding the audience’s attention. It was exhausting to watch and almost impossible to appreciate the skill of the performers. But I think that was the point, because as the show developed and the performers began to share, support each other, work together in pairs and finally come together as a group, they allowed the spotlight to be shone on each other. And it was then that the sheer skill of the cast could finally be seen.

And it is a skilled cast. Alice Allart, with her cigarette and hip flask, is a mistress of the trick bike and performed a beautiful slack wire piece with Arielle Lauzon. Lauzon was the clown of the show, whistling commands and displaying a wide range of acrobatic, chinese hoop and slack wire skills. Rebecca Rennison was the red-winged prima donna, venting her anger in a magnificent silks piece, lit in bright red light. Farrell Cox displayed great strength and skill in her work on the aerial hoop. Supergirl, Coral Dawson was outstanding on the corde lisse – my favourite moment of the show was watching her sit in mid air, comfortably wrapped in rope, watching the other characters perform. And, finally, the less confident character played by Lynn Scott belied the deep assurance of her juggling.

The show’s costumes were brilliantly matched to the piece – vaudeville-meets-circus-meets-steampunk. The wide-ranging soundtrack, composed by Quinta, was also perfect for the show, telling the emotional story of the performance through the sounds of the fairground, with lyrical piano and strings, angry drums, wistful accordion, electronica and finally bird song.  Supported by well-designed lighting, this all wrapped up together to create an extremely rich sensory experience.

Altogether, this is a show that’s well-worth seeing. That said, it’s a new piece and still a touch inward facing.  Some adjustments still need to be made to make sure that it really works for the audience. Perhaps a little less busyness in the first 20 minutes would be easier on the viewer, but still leave them with a strong sense of chaos and dissonance? Also, more thought needs to be given to the way the seating is arranged. I was sitting in the side section and the rig significantly obstructed my view of the centre and back of the stage.