False Messiah
Aerial Manx @ Gluttony – Carry On Theatre
4:15pm, Sun 11 Mar 2012
It was a small audience of only a dozen or so who wander into the Carry On, which was humid and sweltering after basking in the afternoon sun. I could feel the moment the Carry On’s entrance was closed – the temperature started rising immediately – and, after a moment or two of inactivity, I turned around to see if anything was happening. What I saw was Aerial Manx sitting cross-legged on the matting just inside the entrance to the tent, eyes closed, hands on his knees, meditating; after a second or two he sprang to his feet in one smooth movement and took to the stage.
Manx introduces himself, and explains that his act is more about mind-over-matter than spectacle; he’s relatively quiet and moderate in his diction, and there’s something calm and serene about him as he absentmindedly roams the stage whilst contact juggling a crystal ball. The way his body seems to orbit the ball is mesmerising and, with the gentle tone of his voice, I wonder if Manx isn’t trying to sneak the entire audience into a hypnotic state.
Manx then engages in some propane-assisted fire eating, a little self-hypnosis, and follows that up by swallowing a sword and then lifting thirty kilograms with the exposed handle. And that’s pretty, well, amazing. There’s more contact juggling, a Baoding ball demonstration, and some incredible flexibility on show via a little hardcore yoga.
But then comes the pièce de résistance: Manx swallows a sword (whose blade length would have placed the sword tip around his navel) and then performs backflips with the sword in place. And that resulted in one of those wonderful, all-too-rare moments of disbelief, where – despite my physical proximity to the spectacle – I simply could not correlate what I was seeing.
Without wanting to downplay Aerial Manx’s efforts, False Messiah was fucking staggering. As sideshow spectacle of undeniable quality, mixed with a heartfelt (but not overbearing) new-age mysticism, I reckon it’d be nigh-on impossible for anyone to leave that performance with anything other than an wide-eyed, incredulous smile on their face.