Photo Andrew Sikorski.
L'ENTREPRISE du Risque opens with the four performers enveloped by white hazmat suits.
One removes their hood and discovers the air is clean. The others follow their
lead, gulping fresh air. Is it safe to breathe again?
Even in Shakespeare's time, pandemic closed the theatres.
This circus grapples directly with the challenge of staging live performance in the age of COVID-19, with creative producer Sammy Moynihan inviting us to reconsider our relationship with risk.
Like 2019’s Cirque Stratosphere, there was a strong focus on aerial acts including hoops, trapeze and ropes. Veteran aerialist Bernard Bru demonstrated his strength by hanging from a crescent moon, while performer Jake Silvestro brought panache to spinning inside a giant ring. Warehouse Circus performers Imogen Drury and Clare Pengryffyn completed the quartet with polished hoop acrobatics.
The routines were serious and precise rather than flamboyant, with the emphasis on awe at the strength and skill of the performers rather than the thrill of their danger.
By pairing the aerial acts with a voiceover defending risk-taking, the production drew a parallel between the prudent manner in which the performers approached the risk of gravity, and the social distancing measures in place at the theatre to manage the risk of infection.
Lighting design by Linda Buck kept the cavernous theatre dark, with spotlights focused on the performers.
This spartan approach created a contemplative and reverent atmosphere.
Running for an hour, this inaugural production by Belco Arts felt like a taster for more ambitious works in the new theatre.
With the future uncertain, this defiant circus asks us to consider what we will risk to be part of live performance again.