THEATRE REVIEW: Traces, Peacock Theatre

ran until 12 July

Traces (1)
Anne-Marie Godin and Harley McLeish thrill the audience at Traces

Circus is a bit of a new venture for me – it’s not a genre I’ve explored much, and my brain still leaps to images of big tops, elephants and ringmasters. What The 7 Fingers presents is far from this, of course: with incredible strength and agility, and a range of talents, this troupe of performers certainly impress in this electrifying and at times terrifying performance.

This is a group with an international flavour, with performers from the USA, Canada, France, Australia and China. They fill the gaps between their acts with various antics, introducing themselves with quirky facts and joking around, arguing or serenading each other in comic style. This is sometimes a little stilted and awkward, but I see the benefit in seeing the performers as normal, down-to-earth people (however fabricated…) rather than machines with these incredible skills.

Because let’s face it, it wouldn’t be hard to doubt their humanity after seeing their fantastic feats of acrobatics. From aerial ropes and hand-to-hand acrobatics, to sky high poles and teeterboards, each performer has their own specialism but all contribute throughout the show showing incredible flexibility and core strength and power. Some feats really raise a gasp: the work on the Chinese poles is breathtaking, in particular when one member of the troupe hurtles towards the ground, stopping dead inches of the floor and holding himself as still as a statue. Equally stunning is the hand-to-hand acrobatics of Anne-Marie Godin and Harley McLeish – her unsupported one-handed handstand on his forehead made me forget to breathe for a couple of seconds – as well as Godin’s aerial work. It is here that the design comes into its own, her scarlet dress fluttering with speed and beauty as she spins and tumbles through the air. Elsewhere, elements of basketball and skateboarding are a little twee in comparison, but add variety to the evening all the same.

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The show ends with a hoop-diving sequence, which really got the audience going as they cheered each feat of agility louder and louder, as the hoops got higher and narrower. This portion demonstrates the troupe’s unity as they assist each other, and clearly trust each other as performers are flung through the air through the highest hoops. Occasionally the hoops tumble to the floor as the leap isn’t quite accurate; however, I didn’t actually mind this, as it shows just show narrow the margins are and just how precise and skilled these artistes are.

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While the overall concept of the “unknown catastrophe” and “impending disaster” looming outside the performance space is a little lost and pretty unnecessary, the performers are undeniably incredibly impressive and make you laugh and gasp (and frankly feel rather inadequate about your own physical abilities…) at their amazing skills and obvious determined work ethic. With a strong international touring history, this production is well worth a watch wherever in the world you happen to catch it, and it’s certainly made me want to explore the circus scene a little more.

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