A post-apocalyptic circus classic from The 7 Fingers
This review is from 'Traces's May run at London's Peacock Theatre
‘Traces’ is the award-winning show that brought worldwide attention to Montreal ‘cirque nouveau’ collective The 7 Fingers, way back in 2006. It’s toured to 200 cities since then, and its scruffy, highly personal and personable aesthetic has been adopted by other new circus companies. But this latest reappearance in London is well worth catching: ‘Traces’ still has a beguiling sense of youthful energy and rebelliousness, and its seven performers show off superlative circus skills.
The setting is a tattered tarp-and-gaffer-tape shelter, harbouring this septet of friends against an unexplained apocalyptic disaster outside. In the face of utter destruction, they find ways to defy it, shaping creativity and comradeship out of their meagre resources. A battered armchair, a driftwood piano, a handful of skateboards and a basketball are all employed: an overhead camera catches tableaux that at one point suggest Hiroshima victims, at another Busby Berkeley routines. The pace switches from frantic dash to intimate chat to twitchy antagonism.
Integral to the show is how the performers tell us about themselves, sharing everything from their vital statistics to their food preferences and personal traits in between the acrobatics. This deliberately rough-hewn sense of connectivity often makes it feel as though you’re watching a group of mates larking about – it doesn’t always hit its mark but the extent to which they rely on each other definitely adds poignany to their circus set pieces.
These are presented with a sprightly insouciance in keeping with the human-scale aims of the show but are still knock-your-socks-off impressive. Harley McLeish and Anne-Marie Godin’s smouldering hand to hand duet, a sensational Chinese pole demonstration, soundtracked by Radiohead’s ‘Talk Show Host’ (where Lucas Boutin is particularly breathtaking) and Yann LeBlanc’s Cyr wheel display to the Dropkick Murphys are all highlights.
Enmeng Song delivers the best diabolo routine you’re likely to encounter, ever, by adding a jazzy hip hop bounce to the whole astonishingly dexterous affair. And the closing hoop diving extravaganza, which pushes the performers to greater and greater jumps as the teetering stack of hoops climbs higher, is a fitting close to a show which has at its heart a message about the rewards of being prepared to take a risk, whatever adversities are crowding at your door.