On paper this seems like it could be the most exciting show in the world. Immersive theatre with a thrilling contemporary circus performance. In my mind, I imagined standing under a trapeze as performers swings back and forth over my head. Perhaps, I would turn my head to look at someone hanging from the ceiling with nothing more than a single rope barely wrapped around their waist.
It’s hard not to be in awe of the performers as they perform gravity defying tricks such as flipping through a large hoop or moving between ropes in midair. Although most of the show happens in mid-air, one of the most entertaining moments is when Ella Rose plays the ideal party host, putting her shoes on over her head and balancing four glasses of wine and a bottle on her limbs as her guests look on.
It’s hard to see a face when it’s so far above you and upside down but the aerial strapwork is particularly impressive simply because they make it look so easy yet you know if you tried you’d maybe only get a foot off the ground before you’d be hanging on with all your energy.
Unfortunately, the show completely lacks a wow factor as the performers don’t add anything unique to their acts and they often feel like something you might see on Britain’s Got Talent. Some of the acts last too long and are quite repetitive. I often found my attention being drawn to the people attached to the scaffolding set who lead the performers up and down with the most intense eye contact to ensure no one was dropped or raised too quickly.
The immersive aspect to the show doesn’t add anything and perhaps due to my tired legs and strained neck (from having to look up for two hours) I found myself thinking that the show would have been just the same if it took place in a traditional proscenium arch theatre. Furthermore, the stewards constantly have to move the audience around and it is just too chaotic. No one is keen on losing their spot at the front and not everyone can hear the stewards so it becomes stressful, annoying and rather distracting.
Sadly, it’s not particularly memorable as there is nothing new in their performance (the company has been going for 30 years now). The audience could have just been watching the cast rehearse as other than a lot of swinging and some quite impressive torsos there’s a significant lack in variety, excitement and humour or really any performance value.
Bianco plays at The South Bank Centre until January 22 2017.
Photo: Tristram Kenton