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Transit by FLIP Fabrique at Underbelly Festival. Reviewed by Donald Hutera

Like most professional critics, let alone audience members, I like to like the arts and entertainment product I happen to experience. And so, hallelujah, I’m relieved to report that I really liked the French-Canadian  circus-theatre company FLIP Fabrique’s show ‘Transit,’ now playing (until July 7) at Underbelly Festival on the Southbank. I’d even go so far as to say that I loved it because of the spirited cast’s joyous combination of skills and silliness.

Why did I use the word ‘relieved’ in the preceding paragraph? Because when I first saw the hour-long performance in Edinburgh, during last year’s Fringe, it kind of disappointed me. I dunno, it just seemed frivolous and disjointed. Maybe that reaction was, in part, due to whatever level of festival exhaustion I may have been feeling at the time. Or perhaps it was the venue in which it was being presented – a vast hall, unlike the smaller-scale, functional and considerably more intimate London Underbelly premises it now occupies. Hell, in London I had the pleasure of seeing ‘Transit’ from the front row, a vantage point so (thrillingly, at times) close I had to be careful not to stretch my legs too far or risk having the performers trip over my big feet. In truth, I think they’re all far too light on theirs, and spatially savvy, for anything of the kind to actually occur. In any case, at certain moments it was like having circus almost in your lap.

Without wanting to negate my unfortunately dismissive Edinburgh take on ‘Transit,’ I now feel that up in Scotland I got it wrong – as if I somehow failed to appreciate or connect with what now seems a thoroughly delightful and engaging performance from people who have fun doing what they do so well and, what’s more, want to share their fun with us.

The show’s premise is workable simple. It is very loosely and unpretentiously about the six performers onstage, their lives on tour, their camaraderie and their individual dreams. The sole setting is a wall of cargo holders with a few handy portals in it. This is the backdrop for a hugely agreeable display of the cast’s character and sense of communality. They’re affectionate jokesters for whom self-mockery and poke-in-the-ribs playfulness are the norm. Their behaviour is endearing because, even in the superficially artificial context of a show, it rings true.

Personality goes with the territory in ‘Transit’ but for each performer it works in tandem with craft. Jade Dussault, holding her own as the show’s lone female, specialises in the rhythm and geometry of hoops. She’s a charmer. So is the rangy, dreadlocked and fleet Jeremie Arsenault, especially when he’s breezily making diabolos do his bidding. Shaggy-maned, muscular Pierre Riviere follows up his initial twisty, spiralling solo suspended via straps with a wonderfully, even delicately comic repeat only this time in a fat suit and accompanied by a hankering for doughnuts. Jasmin Blouin demonstrates what a buoyant all-rounder he is by executing 14 tricks in a minute and a half. Jonathan Julien is a literally anchoring presence as the show’s slyly confident strongman, while Cedrik Pinault leads the way in the ‘trampo-wall’ finale (but only after he’s satisfied his rock-star yearnings by having the audience throw a plethora of underwear at him).

These bouncy, gifted people pack a lot of energy into an hour and in a relatively small space. I haven’t yet mentioned the spitting-of-sweets routine they all do, nor the conversational ensemble bit as clubs (which also glow in the dark) fly between them. ‘Transit’ generates such a generous sense of goodwill that I occasionally waxed emotional about the pleasure I was having. No surprise, then, that by the time it ended I was feeling mighty satisfied by everything I’d been receiving. Merci!


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