Most shows put on at the theatre tell a story. Straight plays, musicals, ballet, opera, they all have a story to tell that needs to translate from the stage to the waiting audience sitting in the auditorium. Some shows however, are not expected to have much of a narrative to communicate and are there for pure entertainment. So, what happens when a non-story telling piece of theatre decides to do something different and give their audience something to follow as they perform? Well you can find out with a visit to Cirkus Cirkor: Limits which I caught at the Royal Festival Hall.
Limits is conceived and directed by Tilde Björfors and sets out to imagine a world without borders and mixes music, movement and acrobatics to tell the story of movement both voluntary and especially forced. In with the physical, there are projections telling the audience the awful figures of people forced to move by other’s actions such as war and invasion. There are also voiceovers of migrants telling their story of fleeing their respective country.
However, this is primarily an acrobatic show and the various performers – Saara Ahola (Acrobatics, aerial acrobatic and vocals), Anton Graaf (Acrobatics and teeterboard), Einar Kling-Odencrants (Acrobatics and teeterboard), Sarah Lett (Acrobatics and roue cyr), Peter Åberg (Acrobatics, juggling and vocals) – put on a first rate show. Along with music composed and performed by Samuel ‘Looptok’ Andersson, the show consists of various set pieces around a particular piece of equipment.
Highlights for me included: the roue cyr – quite amazing and beautiful to watch, the juggling – which was fast and musical in a quite unique way – trampolining, and the teeter board – which brought back so many memories of playing with my dad’s Atari as a kid – but was quite amazing with the height reached by the two acrobats as they shot each other off the board. However, I did feel that there was an issue with time. Most shows of this kind would run for about an hour but, in this case, the running time was roughly 130 minutes with a 25-minute interval. Some of the scenes seemed a bit drawn out and, at times I felt that, for a family show, it was a bit slow. There were occasions when children could be heard asking what was happening which is never a good sign.
Tilde Björfors was responsible for the concept and direction and along with Olle Strandberg’s choreography, a set designed by Fanny Senocq, Stefan ”Drake” Karlström, Joel Jedström, Tilde Björfors and Jonna Bergelin’s costumes the team have put together a beautiful show that looks spectacular.
To sum up the show, whilst I thought it was superb from a technical and visual point of view, I had real trouble connecting with the ‘message’. I understand the real concern that the company had for the migrant cause but, for me at least, I’m afraid a rather hectoring storyline combined with superb acrobatics just didn’t make for fine bedfellows. The narrative made me feel uncomfortable and possibly that was the intention of the Cirkus Cirkor team, but I do think it was overdone. The Rubik’s Cube scene was amazing but for me the enjoyment was marred by the way Peter Åberg’s vocal accompaniment slid from warm and jolly to cold and depressing. However, I could be in a minority and certainly, going by the number of people who gave the performers a standing ovation at the end, a lot of the audience seemed to really enjoy the combination of story and acrobatics.
Overall then, Cirkus Cirkor: Limits is a visually and technically superb performance. Unfortunately, the show in its entirety just didn’t quite work for me.
Review by Terry Eastham
Scandinavia’s leading contemporary circus company Cirkus Cirkör present the UK premiere of Limits, a bold and poetic exploration into migration and the borders in today’s world.
Conceived and directed by the company’s Founder and Artistic Director Tilde Björfors, Limits pushes boundaries and explores what is possible as migration, and a world of fleeing is balanced against the artist’s individual physical limits in terms of risk, pain, limitations of the group and of the body. Inspired by real life stories, Limits questions why lines have been drawn and the world divided.
Combining energy with acrobatic artistry, the world class company includes gold medalists and teeterboard artists Anton Graaf and Einar Kling-Odencrants, acrobatic and cyr wheel artist Sarah Lett, acrobat and juggler Peter Åberg and aerialist Saara Ahola.
With music composed by Samuel Andersson.
CIRKUS CIRKÖR: LIMITS
Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall
Part of Nordic Matters, Southbank Centre’s year-long exploration of Nordic arts and culture in 2017.