Freefall [FringeTIX: The Arch, The Ringbox]
Gravity & Other Myths @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch
1:00pm, Mon 22 Feb 2010
Summary: this show was amazing.
Now step back and explain.
I’ve no idea what attracted me to Freefall; the precis in the Guide is ambiguous and, indeed, a little odd given its location in the circus section. I walked in expecting some light acrobatics set against a bed of interesting characters embedded in some sort of basic theatre. Why’d I pick this show, again?
Regardless, as the lights drop, the young-looking cast appear, scribbling on hanging sheets of paper at the rear of the stage (a common motif this year, it seems). Then a large lightbulb is lowered from the roof – it’s the only source of light in The Arch now and, as it is swung around its fitting (scooting within millimetres of the corners of the T-shaped stage) the soft orange light it emits lights up the faces of the cast with wonder.
And then the acrobatic part of the performance kicks in – and it’s bloody amazing. There’s tons of brilliantly choreographed tumbling and balance acts, the female members of the cast are swung and flung around seemingly at will, and the multi-level juggling is almost impossible to follow. And then there’s the occasional spoken-word break, with the cast delivering lines based on the phobia theme… this could have been incredibly cheesey, but they manage to pull it off with the perfect balance of humour and compassion.
And the genuine sense of camaraderie that seemed to exist within the group… there’s a tangible team on stage. If there’s a spill (the odd juggling feat went awry), there’s always someone to clean up. There’s the little looks between them that indicate a focus, an intent, greater than the individual’s need to get past the next trick. And, whilst the male members of the cast have a homogeneity about them (in dress and stellar ability), the women are more distinct: the coy, cheeky grin of Tilly Cobham-Hervey (“Blue”). The elegance of Jascha Boyce (“White”). The stunning balance and strength of Brie Henwood (“Stripey”).
Now, there can be no messing around here; I heartily, unreservedly, recommend this to anyone and everyone, but with one small caveat: I saw this at Holden Street, not The Ringbox. And that may have coloured my experience somewhat, but I don’t really care – because my emotional response to this performance was one of tearful joy. And that’s something I haven’t had from many shows… ever.
It’s a ridiculously confined space for such a massive act… it’s all right there. Christ, I was sitting in the second row, and one mis-directed club whilst juggling could have knocked all my teeth out. When they’re standing three-tall, the topmost person is staggeringly close to the roof of The Arch – indeed, the lighting rig in The Arch had to be reconfigured to provide the vertical space required for Freefall. And yet they towered above the miniscule audience that day – all ten of us, maybe – and they fucking delivered. I shit you not, I’m tearing up right now, just recalling the jaw-gaping joy I felt that afternoon.
And then I discover that, apart from instructor/mentor Triton Tunis-Mitchell (who’s still on the junior side of thirty, and astonishingly strong), not one of the cast is over nineteen years of age. And that chucks a whole new perspective on things… because, whilst I’ll see some of the same tricks elsewhere this Fringe (in fact, the entire first act of Controlled Falling Project could have been plucked from Freefall), I’m still stunned that a group so young were able to conjure up that strength, that skill, and deliver with such poise.
And the ending… the ending! An absolutely magnificent full-stop on a magical show; perfect punctuation.
Look, I could keep typing, but get no closer to communicating how much I loved seeing Freefall. I hope it translates well to The Ringbox – the kids(!) certainly have the skill to carry it – but such an amazing show, in such an intimate venue… this is one of my shows of the year, hands down.