Normal circus acts rely upon their acts to create an impression on their audiences. Others may then build upon those acts with eye-catching costumes, stellar live bands, elaborate sets and fantastic tales. However, we continue to imagine that a performance full of pathos is the domain of actual theatre, not ‘physical theatre’.
Yet that is exactly what Short Round Productions’ Filament delivered in their matinee performance in RCC’s new location by the riverbank. The show takes traditional circus performances and entwines them with a youthful story of love, friendship and identity. Youth is the reoccurring theme throughout the performance – popular music from Florence + The Machine, Sufjan Stevens and Kings of Leon backed the routines, smartphones were often used as props to the narrative, and the performers gave fantastically exaggerated renditions of stereotypical ‘millennial’ characters.
Which is not to take away from the physical acts themselves; there were some deeply impressive feats of grace, strength and flexibility from the performers with the usual spread of balance stands, trapezes, poles and contortions. That being said, I can easily point to several circus shows I have seen whose performers were more talented and whose acts were more ambitious, and had Filament consisted solely of these routines, I would likely assign it a mediocre score.
But the production is so much more than a circus show; ‘physical theatre’ is a particularly apt means of describing it. While some may think that a story centred around millennial drama would be tiresome, narcissistic or inconsequential, the Filament team use it as a basis for exploring weighty issues that confront the younger generation: social anxiety, beauty standards, troubled relationships and sexual identity. Even more remarkable for a group largely made up out of circus performers, their performances are affectingly genuine, with a special mention to French-Canadian Maude Parent as the adorably and hilariously awkward Leslie.
Filament does nothing to subvert clichés of the millennial generation – indeed relying upon many of them – but it nevertheless provides an endearing and heartfelt narrative that explores the often-trivialised issues challenging this generation. While it lacks the nuance of proper theatre, Short Round Productions' show does a wonderful job of blending entertaining routines with a damn good yarn.
Recommended also on the merits of the angriest hula hoop routine ever.