The curtains open and we see a man holding on to a huge piece of light fabric, dancing in the air, moved by a circle of fans. The wonder begins and I suddenly feel like a child again, receptive to every single magical moment in Acrobuffos’ Air Play.
Performed in the Southbank Centre’s vast concert hall, the piece explores the possibilities of making objects fly, bringing them to life. Creators and performers Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone deliver the piece with incredible stamina and charisma. Without any words they are able to communicate not only a loose narrative, but concrete thoughts and ideas as well. Their chemistry with each other and their audience is palpable even in this concert hall where the division between audience area and stage is so cemented it can often feel unbridgeable. For Bloom and Gelsone, this is not a problem at all: their ambitious sequences often spill over the boundaries of the stage and engage with the audience, for example when they use their fans to blow their colourful fabrics over the heads of their audience, or when a slow red balloon is gently aided into the audience area.
Their piece also involves audience interaction: at one point two spectators are called onto the stage to play a game of collecting balloons. This sounds daunting on such a big stage, but the duo handles the potential awkwardness of audience participation so well that it never feels out of place or uncomfortable. Instead, the interaction element emphasises their playfulness. At one point both Bloom and Gelsone climb into large balloons and perform a hilarious choreography; it is one of those moments where you feel that this is exactly what you’ve been waiting for to see on stage, you just didn’t know it yet.
But Acrobuffos’ performance is not only funny and playful, but at points tranquil and truly beautiful. Aided by a gentle and meticulous lighting design and accompanied by a diverse and fantastic soundtrack, each sequence brings wonder with elegant simplicity, without overcomplicating any of the routines. Merely watching a big red balloon travel serenely around the space was so calming and transporting that it did not need anything else to accompany it.
Air Play not only utilizes the Southbank Centre’s space in a unique and clever way, but it also brings an evening of fun and wonder that can be enjoyed by anyone, no matter how old they are.
Southbank Centre is playing at Southbank Centre until 14 August 2016. For more information and tickets, see the Southbank Centre website.
Photo: Florence Montmare