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Kelly Page Reviews Chivaree Circus's 'Crash': 'A Celebration'

I love going to the theatre and seeing a show in the round. Especially if the show involves a range of performances of all shapes and sizes, at different heights, which need to be viewed from all angles. Yes, The Cockpit Theatre was an ideal location for Chivaree’s second solo production and I felt very fortunate to have wangled a front row seat. As you would expect on opening night, the atmosphere amongst the audience was excited and pre-emptive; we had arrived for a rollercoaster of emotions and I for one couldn’t wait to climb aboard!

The compére, Dusty Limits, was both welcoming and witty with his dry and relatable sense of humour. He owned every inch of the stage (and, at times, the seating area when he made himself comfy with members of the audience) and had us all captivated with his gorgeous singing voice. The songs he performed were incredibly stylish, with a cabaret twist and a fantastic range. I was particularly impressed when there appeared to be some technical difficulties with his microphone in the penultimate song and he simply ignored it and went on with the show (the show must go on, after all!) and carried it off with ease unaided by the speakers. Love it or hate it, audience participation was a key part of the show about half way through and our fabulous host picked out members of the audience to share their embarrassing stories with everybody. I feel that had it not been for the way in which he had won the audience over from the word go then there is no way random strangers would have opened up to him and the room. He just made it work and kept everyone engaged; not just at this point, but through out the show. His narrative surrounding human emotions and the way in which we act at specific times in our lives was woven so well between the performances themselves, making him the fabulous twine holding the wonderful, rich tapestry of CRASH together.

The first act to grace the stage was Lili Rice, not only with her Cyr wheel, but an astonishing singing voice to accompany it. Before this show I had no idea it would even be possible for someone to sing (and I’m not talking karaoke here, I mean really sing like an angel!) whilst suspended in side a giant spinning hoop which requires all your core strength to hold yourself up in. Her use of the limited space in relation to the size of the wheel was excellent and the precision and seamlessness of her performance was the perfect opener.

In keeping with the notion of ‘traditional circus’ and cabaret, Snake Fervor came to stage to shock and terrify us all with her unbelievable sword swallowing act. Still, a number of days later, the image of her plunging a 12 inch blade down her throat in front of an audience of people gasping, grabbing their throats totally astounds me! I just don’t know how she did it, but she did- I saw it with my own eyes! The question is; how did she manage to make something so life threatening and horrifying be so captivating and sexy? A truly jaw dropping show by a uniquely talented performer.

While the MC chatted up the audience a luscious, red silk slinks effortlessly into place ready for Rebecca Rennison to take to the air. In a frenzy of wild, illustrious movements which enabled her to travel up to the ceiling and fearlessly drop to the floor again with immeasurable strength and precision. The emotion of anger, frustration and pain came through really strongly in this performance; her facial expression as well as incredible range of movement from her body told the audience a powerful story. Her exit was as strong as her entrance as she flung the silk to one side and marched off in triumph in a way I would liken to someone who just won in an argument; absolutely owed it!

Mike Core provided us with some lighter entertainment with a good old fashioned juggling act- with a twist. His build up and momentum was spot on and he worked towards a five ball sequence that made me go a little cross eyed (in a good way!) When his jacket came off we knew it meant business as he started to throw in the odd back flip into the routine. This really impressed me and I felt like it took the audience by surprise on a whole because we were all so fixated with the juggling itself.

CRASH - A Celebration from Chivaree Circus on Vimeo.

No one can hula hoop like Lily Raptor. This was my opinion before seeing her perform as part of CRASH; now I have this confirmed as fact rather than just my opinion. The woman is utterly sensational and her performance on opening night was nothing short of a beautiful, multicoloured miracle. The LED hoops were super effective in the dark as they created a swirling, twirling band of colour and magic around the performer. Hand five of them over to Lily Raptor after she’s kicked her shoes off and the result is a human kaleidoscope who can work the crowd like no other with unbridled sass and raw energy. Throw in a casual jump from standing to full splits whilst hooping and I think it’s safe to say she had us all transfixed as the audience whooped and cheered in support of this stunning creature. Hands down, my favourite act of the night.

The penultimate act came in the form of an acrobatic dream team consisting of two fine gentlemen Peter Freeman and Loric Fouchereau and their red umbrella. Their backing track, “Singing in the Rain” provided the upbeat, care free ambience that offset their death defying stunts. I loved the use of the umbrella prop because it added an adorable element of whimsical fancy in juxtaposition with the pure might, concentration and unbreakable trust that these two performers maintained throughout. The duo carried off impossible lifts, back flips, conjoined balancing and tumbles with an air of total relaxation and composure; it was immensely impressive and really inspiring to see two bodies working in such harmony with one and other to create such a seamless sequence. I was fortunate enough to grab a word with the two of them after the show and after conveying my congratulations they modestly replied “We are just playing, we just have fun with it”. This spoke volumes, not only for their part but for all of Chivaree’s performers who clearly love what they do and this passion shone through in every way during the show.

The show ended on a high with Jackie Le’s stunning aerial hoop finale accompanied by a dub step remix of California Soul. Le spent the whole performance utterly beaming with joy and excitement. Her skill and precision was second to none hoisted ten feet in the air spiralling in to a blur with a 360 degrees spin. As the act reached its climax dozens of giant red and black balloons fell from the sky and began to bounce around the room with the audience batting them across the stage through an atmosphere of pure ecstasy and elation. It was such a fun way to close the show and it brought everything together in a really neat and inclusive manner.

If you were fortunate enough to have been part of the audience for CRASH I think you will agree that the production team and cast delivered exactly what they set out to; a show of ups and downs, both figurative and literal. A display of raw human emotions depicted by physical human form which was, engaging, uplifting and, quite simply, awe inspiring.