Fusing personal memories, circus acts and a decisively nineties soundtrack, Throwback – a collaboration between Jacksons Lane theatre and Silver Lining circus company – is an evocative and exuberant treat.
With a combination of singing, acrobatics, gymnastics, and comic storytelling, the six associate artists re-examine ways in which the body and music can be utilised for the exploration of memory. Directed by Paulette Randall and Simon Pollard, the show feels like an ode to coming of age for the nineties generation; and what Ulrike Storch, Sammy Dinneen, Craig Dagostino, Lj Marles, Tom Ball and Alice Gilmartin lack in polish, they compensate in rawness and good humour.
The hour-long show, set between the walls of the somewhat gymnasium-like theatre of Jacksons Lane, assumed the feel of a high school talent contest. To begin, the audience were asked to write down a song on a piece of paper which most reminded them of falling in love, fold it into paper airplanes, and throw it at the stage. This very much set the audience up for the feel of the rest of the show – a joyous remembrance of all things past.
Ball, a hilarious and dynamic trapeze artist, began the show with a story about his first and last time setting fire (or attempting to set fire) to a ‘greasy dead raven’; inspiring raucous laughter from the audience. He danced and generally wooed the crowd to the backing song of Rusted Root’s ‘Send Me On My Way’, perhaps the most evocative song of the time. Gilmartin, who entertained with a series of challenging hand balances, spoke candidly about rocking her new-born daughter to sleep for the first time, giving the audience a powerful reminder of the potential and power of the human body.
Dinneen, perhaps the most technically accomplished performer of all six, showed a beautiful and impressive series of hand-balances. His particularly beautiful torso, silhouetted in the low-lighting, drew much appreciation from the female portion of the crowd. Admissions of what his mother had sacrificed to allow him to study music as a child was heart-breaking and exposing. It enhanced the power of the performance.
Whilst there was much fun to be had, certain parts of Throwback seemed clumsy, disorganised and unfinished; with Storch and Dagostino’s performances feeling unpracticed. The former, whose performance consisted of balancing various hoops around her feet as she lay upside down, totally failed to impress. The latter, whilst technically proficient on the pole, chose a rather dubious heartbreak soundtrack. His incredibly casual baggy jeans altered my perception of pole dancers forever. As opposed to sensual or graceful, he looked like an oversized man attempting to climb up a street lamp to escape from heartbreak.
The cast felt generous and authentic. Their performances were light-hearted and the confessional aspect imbued their performances with a dimension not normally present in traditional circus acts. By the end of the show, as they spoke of their dreams for the future (a home, children, money etc.) you admired these artists, practicing incredibly difficult disciplines, despite the extreme scarcity of public funding, and the high cost of living in a city like London.
If you are after technical brilliance, consistency or aesthetic polish this is not the performance for you; but for laughter, vibrancy and spirit it ticks all the boxes.
Throwback played at Jacksons Lane till 4 February. Stay up to date here.
Photo by Karl Rabbitt