Long Answers to Simple Questions @ Gluttony – The Lotus Palace
8:15pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015
Look – once I’ve shoved a show onto my Shortlist, it just becomes a name to juggle in a spreadsheet to me. If I recognise the name as being a show of note, or recall its genre, then great… but a lot of the time I find myself guessing the genre of a show from the venue that I rock up to at the allotted time.
So it was that I arrived at The Lotus Palace with not much of an idea of what to expect from LEFT. A quick glance around for posters had me thinking it might be a one of the plethora of circus performances that seem to be the growth category in the Fringe… though if this evening’s meagre turnout of a “crowd” was any indication, we may have already hit Peak Circus: sub-double-digit audience numbers aren’t covering the cost of the venue.
Long Answers to Simple Questions are a troupe of seven hailing from Melbourne, and there’s certainly a great sense of enthusiasm and camaraderie between them: they always appear to be looking out for each other during the show, feeding each other with nods and smiles. And that’s just as well, really: according to the Guide’s précis, LEFT has a narrative based around the importance of community and the impact of loss and grief. I saw “apparently”, because it’s incredibly easy to ignore the narrative threads and just drink in the acrobatic action.
There’s no visual aesthetic or clear direction to the group as they go about their business in a mishmash of exercise clothes; indeed, as the audience trickles in the troupe are performing their pre-show stretches on the floor. But their tricks belie their casual appearance, with tons of floor acrobatics, tumbles, juggling, and aerial work.
The range of LEFT is decent, and there’s a few tricks that I haven’t seen before: the spin-and-pass, where one person is swung and swapped between others by holding one wrist and ankle, is de rigueur these days… but with two girls intertwined? Colour me impressed. The trapeze work, with five of the seven members all on the trapeze at the same time? Lovely. And the table slides, with the troupe running at / over / under the table, sliding and leaping and tumbling, is a choreographically messy – and dangerous-feeling – visual delight. Tightropes? Yep. Juggling? That’s there too.
It’s quite the spectacle… but that’s one of LEFT‘s failings, too. At times it feels like there’s too much going on: the entire troupe may be juggling in smaller groups at the same time, or there may be three pairs of acrobatic balances at once… it becomes difficult to take it all in. Spectacle is fine, but some space for the tricks to breathe would work wonders… and would also probably bring the spill count down.
Look – it’s impossible for me to look at any kind of physical theatre and not compare it to my beloved Gravity & Other Myths. And whilst LEFT was a pretty impressive performance, and purports to having a potentially emotive narrative, it somehow lacked the human touch of Freefall (let alone A Simple Space). But that doesn’t mean that LEFT is bad… just that it’s in some exalted company.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 12, 2015