A good performer, circus or otherwise, doesn’t let their mistakes get the better of them. A great performer owns their mistakes and uses them to better engage their audience.
Left, winner of the 2013 Gasworks Circus Showdown, is the work of great performers.
For me this idea of owning your mistakes is particularly important when approaching circus-based works. The performers of such works are exuding such a huge amount of physical effort in their endeavours that the acknowledgement and acceptance of mistakes by both the audience and the performers are integral to everyone’s engagement with the show. When one performer falls only to bounce back up, smile and wink at the audience, we are included in their mistake and it humanises the people on stage who are performing acts some audience members could never even dream of.
Left accepts the failures and negativities of both performance and life, picks itself back up and blows a raspberry in the face of negativity. In the process it shoots its audience through a slapdash and clumsy range of emotions accompanied by some of the coolest tricks around that will make even the most stoic and joyless person want to run away and join the circus.
Really that is where the joy of watching emerges in Left, what they are doing on stage is just so damn cool that you can’t help but be blown away and sucked in by the 90 minute show. Yes the majority of the show feels like a free-for-all masterclass of play and fun at NICA (National Institute of Dramatic Arts) and, yes, you can see every ‘exercise’ within the piece being used as an exercise and not a dramatic narrative function. But who the hell cares, the 14 performers on stage are a damn talented group of people and watching them do the thing they do best is a thrill.
I’m also a real sucker for the use of play in works and the scattered introduction of games into the piece brought that light-hearted fun to a whole new level and I for one walked away wanting to play every one of them. This was, however, what let them down when the mood shift hit us as an audience. As fun and jovial as Left was for three quarters of the show, the rest dealt with the things that can hit us like brick walls and our attempts to pick ourselves back up afterwards. Unfortunately all the fun, exercises, and ‘class’ feeling that had existed before these themes entered the piece meant that the crux of the piece felt like it had been shoehorned in and the group could benefit from some re-writes and clearer direction if it is important to them that those mood shifts have a strong effect on the audience.
All in all, Left was a joy to watch and I look forward to seeing how this piece evolves and develops!