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The Nose Dive Assembly at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

A clown sees a parrot, and wants to become one herself. It’s the sort of throughline you might expect from Cirque du Soleil – but the treatment of this narrative couldn’t be more different in Revel Puck Circus’s delightful, gravity-defying, downright fun The Nose Dive Assembly. It’s a touring circus production for the whole family – and, as is made clear from their consistent focus on inclusion and accessibility – for every family.

Revel Puck
Revel Puck.

It’s fitting for the circus to have arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. Circus is all about exploring the bounds of what a human body can achieve: just like the Olympic Games, only with a little more emphasis on fun, and a little less on longest / fastest / heaviest / best. Not every circus troupe makes this exploration explicit, but Revel Puck rises to the challenge. Artistic Director Luke Hallgarten has made clear that he thinks humans and their bodies are the beating heart of all circus.

Revel Puck are doing something unusual, in retaining (broadly) the same cast as their last show. The Nose Dive Assembly forms the final part of a triptych around Risk. Rather than finding new acts to astonish and excite, the Pucks decided to see what else the same group could come up with. We see this from the off when the circus discipline of group acrobatics is demystified through a spoken commentary, as an act is built up out of the raw material of bases (large, strong people) and flyers (smaller, more nimble folk) until something taller, more impressive and a little scarier emerges. The audience, meanwhile, understands how this has been made safe.

Everything is on show here: ropes, platforms, and anchors are hoisted into the air by cast and crew, in full view, so we can see what is holding them up – and often how minimal this is. All circus acts, they explain, have two essential ingredients: gravity and risk. I guess it’s true: there can be no circus in space!

A big top can be an intimate setting, yet the company makes use of every inch of room. Imani soars just beneath the canvas on aerial straps; Fiona and Thorn do a delightful coordinated Cyr Wheel act, one about the other with only a floating platform between them. The staging here is more ambitious than Revel Puck’s previous shows. The wheel of death, which delivers a nail-biting finale (with Fiona and Emily apparently the first-ever female duo to perform this discipline!), had to be custom-built to fit the space.

Rather than the complex use of equipment feeling gratuitous, it’s clear they’re having fun with the possibilities afforded. One of my favourite moments is a more low-key one – when Seb dances around the platform, now untethered at the sides, as it lowers back down. The whole suspended stage swirls around in midair, as their movement shifts its centre of gravity. This isn’t any particular formal discipline, but it shows how the company is playing whatever emerges: having raised a platform into the air, how can we make the process of lowering it back down an event, rather than simply a break in the action?

It makes for a visceral and cerebral delight for the whole family, exploring the circus’s limits and potential. And yes – in the end, with a little help from her circus family, the clown does get to fly after all.

5 Star Rating

Review by Ben Ross

Artistic Director Luke Hallgarten
Assistant Director Fiona Thornhill
Producer Nix Pretlove
Creative Engagement Producer Iona Bremner
Company Production Manager Sorelle Morris
Marketing Manager Daisy Minto
Social Media Content Creators Imani Vital and Emily Lannigan
Social Media @revelpucks #revelpucks

The Nose Dive Assembly
Dates Thursday 16th May – Sunday 2nd June 2024
Location The Revel Puck Big Top, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Hopkins Field, E20 3AX


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