ThisSideUp Acrobatics @ The Ringbox
11:30pm, Tue 23 Feb 2010
The Ringbox is only about half-full for this show; a pretty good crowd, all things considered. After all, it’s still early in the Fringe Season, it’s late on a Tuesday night, and it was a bit chilly out. The mob that did turn up, though, didn’t seem perturbed in the slightest… in fact, they were one of the most enthusiastic crowds I’d encountered so far.
Clearly they knew something about ThisSideUp Acrobatics. I had heard bugger all about them, attracted to the show by the promise of “a laboratory of acrobatic impossibilities” and an easy-to-manage timeslot. Still, I had a fantastic seat, the stage was littered with props that gave the air of a mad scientist’s lair, and the bubbling anticipation of the crowd swept me up.
Four characters strut onstage – a professor (whose exaggerated over-acting created a comical focus) and his three minions. Progress through the four “acts” of the performance is registered on the professor’s chalkboard, but the first act – a collection of tumbling and balance routines – failed to thrill… I felt like I’d seen it all yesterday, that there was nothing new here.
The rest of the crowd, though, ate it up.
The subsequent acts did manage to impress, however. There was some breathtaking stacked-chair balancing, more tumbling, brute-strength single-handed pole balances, and a bit of teamwork in their russian bar routines. Some ring work, flips and throws, and plenty of humour.
Linked together by the peripheral premise of a series of lab experiments, Controlled Falling Project is a superbly polished and stunningly presented acrobatic event. Sometimes, though, that just isn’t enough to satisfy. Throughout the show I felt surprisingly irritated by crowd around me constantly chirped about how amazing they thought the Project was; all I wanted to do was tell them about the stunning experience I had with Freefall, but I know my limits: I wouldn’t be able to explain why a bunch of tumbling youngsters, full of enthusiasm but smattered by mistakes, managed to capture my eyes and – more importantly – my emotions.
And that’s the thing that was lacking with my Controlled Falling Project experience – the emotion. Yes, it was all very wonderful to look at – and a noticeably more professional & polished production than Freefall – but it didn’t make a connection with me in the same way that Freefall did.
However, ThisSideUp also performed as part of the Smoke & Mirrors ensemble show in the recent Cabaret Festival, and my proximity to the stage during that performance made a massive difference. Sitting in the second row of that show, I was in a position where I could watch the ThisSideUp guys strain and sweat through large amounts of the same tricks; that closeness made everything more immediate, more personal. So there’s a lesson to learn there for me, I reckon: favour the proximity over the all-encompassing view, maybe?