Words by Emma Ferraro
Seven acrobats and 30 metres of rope.
By A Thread, performed by One Fell Swoop Circus, is an ensemble circus performance that is designed to ‘explore the relationship between trust and play.’
Unlike most circuses, the only apparatus is a 30-metre length of rope. It is a thoughtful demonstration of cause-and-effect, in which the actions of one performer (directly and indirectly) influence the actions of the other performers. In theory, it is simplistic, but in actual practice, the complexity, strategy, and deliberation is impressive.
For each acrobat cannot perform alone: in a solo sequence, the group may be controlling the rope, yet in a group sequence, each performer is (again, directly or indirectly) reliant upon the others to succeed. They launch off one another and climb one another — they flip, lift, climb, throw, and catch one another.
You might believe that there are only so many ways you can use a rope to perform, but this would be an erroneous assumption: their use of the rope is clever and innovative. The rope is vertical, horizontal, diagonal, criss-crossed, tangled: it’s used to climb, to be tangled in; it’s a skipping rope, a swing. Everything is meticulously choreographed and every motion coordinated to the last second. But it isn’t flamboyant or gimmicky: it doesn’t need to be, for every member of the audience cannot take their eyes away from the stage.
The performers were highly skilled, with their displays of strength and flexibility. You could see years of hard work and dedication in every motion. They seamlessly juxtaposed between concentration and tension, and relaxation and playfulness. Their aerials were mesmerising and exhilarating.
While there lacked a cohesive narrative through a traditional storyline/characterisation, there wasn’t a real need for it. Rather, the show curated themes of isolation, hilarity, intimacy, and friendship, in which the exploration of the relationship between trust (between the performers) and play (their genuine enjoyment of their work) was paramount.
4 out of 5 stars.
By A Thread is performing at Gluttony until March 18th, 2018, with the exception of Wednesdays and Thursdays.