Going to see Traces is not just about going to see fantastic circus, though when it comes to satisfying traditional expectations it’s all there, and flawlessly executed: Trapeze, Chinese pole, Cyr Wheel, tricks with Diablo’s. However it’s also dance; ballet with basketball, jazz dance fused with skateboarding, and street dance mixed with comedy.
The opening sequence is fast-paced, aggressive and full of lifting, throwing and movement, something that looks part acrobatics, part dance and part choreographed fight, with the continuous accompaniment of pounding music and lights, but it’s just a taste of the sheer skill which the next hour entails. Then right after this astonishing opening, the pace totally changes, and the performers begin taking it in turns to individually introduce themselves, all comically spinning and skipping around a mic suspended from high up on the ceiling. We hear their age, their place of birth and a few personal attributes, which range from funny and handsome, to jealous and unlucky in love. It is really these moments of personal connection that set up the show perfectly.
Traces is funny and it’s beautiful, and it’s because so often we feel like we are being told a story, whether that be the individual love story which plays out on the stage at one point, a girl who is constantly left out or a boy who can’t play piano, the entire company work together to help tell this story, riffing off each other, sharing each new moment. The high points are obviously when the performers each showcase their individual specialities, but even then, the rest of the company are usually on stage, watching, often enacting a supporting performance or role and you can’t help but be intrigued by the different life stories which have lead them all to the same place, to tour, work and live together. This is something which the show’s supposed narrative, that the performers are trapped inside a shelter, a catastrophe waiting outside, plays into superbly.
Fantastic effects and production set this off and the production team is to be commended as much as the performers. A continuous projection on the back wall of the stage is particularly useful, displaying images from live doodles of a city engulfed by a tsunami, to mock security camera footage and a succession of childhood-to-adult photographs. The audience comes to see that traces are not only the things which bind us to something: personal ties, family, friends, but also the traces we inadvertently leave behind that will influence others; in this show the performers join livelihoods with lives, and they do it beautifully.
Traces played Assembly Hall (venue 35) as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.