I love circus – the sense of wonder as bodies do amazing things, stupefying things even. The problem with circus is that there are only so many things each act can do to wow you and they inevitably get spaced out a bit by ‘clever’ presentation and, in real circus, a showman to bring on the acts and raise anticipation. Done well you don’t really notice and it’s all part of the spectacle. Done badly all this infill can really drag and within minutes of the start of Traces I was feeling pretty forlorn (“20 minutes in – board stiff” my notebook says) and wondering when stage magic would happen.
The 7 fingers hail from Quebec, spiritual home of contemporary circus. The performers, 6 men and 1 woman, are supposedly trapped in some shelter while disaster happens outside, but not much is made of this. There are some projected video doodles, one of a tsunami, and the performers introduce themselves – name, nationality, weight, personality traits etc. They are an engaging bunch – each one has a twinkle, and there are large dollops of mild humour but none of this really goes anywhere or feels coherently connected. Later we get a demonstration of guitar and piano playing with a bit of mediocre singing. But I’m not here for this, I kept thinking.
It’s a 2 hour show including a 20 minute interval and the first part really concentrates on all this peripheral urban stuff of getting you to like the performers as they lark around. There is a bit of playing with a basketball, some throwing of chairs and skateboard tricks, but nothing exceptional. Circus-wise it gets stronger at the end of the first half and for much of of the second, when traditional circus is more in evidence. Overall I liked the Chinese Poles and other aerial and strength tricks. But my highlights were the Cyr Wheel work of Yann LeBlank and the Diabolo work of Enmeng Song. But they all check out in a good Hoop Diving extravaganza and you wish the first part of the show had had the punch of the second part. Great, charismatic, performers but the production itself needs to find stronger ways of using them. That said Traces has been going now since 2006 and the audience seemed happy enough no matter how depressed I was at times.