This Is What We Do For A Living [FringeTIX]
Tumble Circus @ AC Arts – Main Theatre
6:00pm, Thu 17 Feb 2011
I often wonder who turns up on the opening nights of shows like this; shows that promise spectacle for a pittance, in a venue that must cost an arm and a leg. Shows that rely heavily on word-of-mouth, because advertising isn’t going to cut it. Where does the word-of-mouth come from?
Well, people like me turn up. The curious, the nearby. Students, friends. Other carnies. A somewhat surprising number of people. AC Arts attendees trickle in throughout the show.
Taking my position halfway up the Main Theatre’s Cliff of Seating, I realise what a great venue for circus acts this is; the steep incline of the seating creates a great sense of verticality. The trapeze looks above the tiny cushion-littered mattress in the middle of the stage.
After an intro music selection of John Peel countdowns, Tina Machina and Ken Evil wander onto the stage with a hint of coyness; when they look at each other, they manage to convey a sickly-sweet cutesy passion. And they begin to tell the story of how they met on the streets of Dublin; critiquing each other’s juggling skills, they formed Tumble Circus and have worked together since.
Throughout the ensuing narrative (tales of travel and adventure, sprinkled with typical boy/girl conflict), they intersperse their circussy tricks: balance acts, hoops, juggling, free-rope, trapeze. Ken’s strength and balance was tremendous, and the delicacy of his courtship with a member of the audience (as he repeatedly plucked flowers from the top of the free rope) was delightful.
Tina, it has to be said, had a bit of an off night. A fair few of her hoop tricks went awry, and her balance seemed to desert her for awhile. In fact, when they started doing the trapeze tricks I was a little bit worried that something terrible might happen; luckily, that work went off without a hitch… and was really thrilling, a bunch of tightly packed tricks as they clambered and swung their bodies around high above the floor, engaging in amusing faux conflict up high that would be missed if watching from the floor. They also shared a spill or two in the juggling; but the mistakes are always handled graciously, with a rueful look to the audience or a mocking nod from their partner. Tina’s eyes surely won a lot of admirers.
I’d be flat-out lying if I said that this is the best circus that I’ve seen this year. If you wanted that sense of spectacle, go check out Tom Tom Crew or even Cantina (disclaimer: don’t bother seeing Cantina, they probably don’t need your money). But what This Is What We Do For A Living does have is a bit of heart, a sly-but-friendly wink, with its attempt at a narrative structure.
And there is a curious ending, with Tina and Ken engaging in a pillow fight with the audience. Odd, fun, and most of all… charming.