Fringe Circus


Assembly Roxy

Mary Brennan 

five stars

HE holds out his hand, and when she takes it, he swings her off her feet - whirls her high, onto his shoulders where she stands, poised and confident. If Nikki were to slip and fall, JD would always catch her before she hit the ground. They have such a simpatico rapport, this pair. An ability to jigsaw their limbs together in spontaneous episodes of hand-to-hand acrobatics that - even without the introductory story of how they met - you just know they are close-coupled off-stage too. Isn’t it romantic? - the sheer brinkmanship of what they do, and the obvious trust that underpins every bravura manoeuvre.
And then they burst the heart-shaped balloon of our rosy-tinted assumptions: the amazing partnership of Nikki Rummer and JD Brussé  is a purely professional working relationship. At which point, the interlocking elements of spoken text, thrillingly inventive circus skills and  contemporary dance moves - devised in collaboration with Ben Duke of Lost Dog Dance Company - take the linking narrative in brutally honest and highly personal directions. A silent screaming match reveals an unexpected undertow of anger, irritation, resentment - suddenly the feats of physical prowess are emotionally charged, the interdependence that is the basis of their acrobatic ‘duets’ even becoming combative... as if the other half of the act was an enemy killing off any chance of a life beyond the stage.

But then, when JD whispers details of family rejection, that acrobatic doublework returns in an achingly poignant expression of supportive friendship: she - small and wiry - lifts him - taller, heavier - onto her shoulders, balances him there, like a pint-sized Atlas bearing the burdens of the world. Yes, they agree, as they waltz to the strains of Volare, one day they will part. The complicated knot of their singular friendship - and the glorious meshing of their superbly skilled bodies - will fray. But not yet - there’s still time to catch this wonderfully funny, tremendously touching production. 

runs until August 25