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Touch and Go (Bristol)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Theatre is electrified by the risk involved, especially when a performer hangs by their ankle from a corde lisse. The chances we take on stage and in everyday life form the brittle backbone of the Circomedia school’s first year student production. In a revue format of over thirty compact scenes, it pins down, flirts with and finally revels in risk.

Circomedia’s trademark contemporary circus and physical theatre are smeared with agitated energy. From a stylish aerial routine set to health and safety instructions, to seductive Spanish juggling and a scene of sexual longing between a cleaner and her boss, Touch & Go showcases physical skills with some strong character work and flashes of impish comedy.

A few scenes could be further honed but the sparks of creativity are beyond doubt. The twenty-five young performers have devised a show that hinges on their own inexperience – they play at awkwardness and at one point a stretcher is called on for an apparently injured performer. This buys the audience’s support and shoos away any pretension, but relying on the premise that something may go wrong restricts it to a work in progress. They aren’t quite confident enough to completely embrace performing failure, but there are moments of spot-on physical comedy.

In a beautifully devised snapshot, a woman compulsively tells ‘doctor doctor’ jokes to delay the bad news her GP delivers. When she’s told there’s ‘nothing more they can do’ a chorus dressed in black manhandle her through her stunned horror. Nina Adams conquers an extreme fear of heights to swing blindfolded on a trapeze. This simple act is so committed that she is captivating as she flies ferociously higher, seemingly out of the auditorium.

Ryan Murphy has a particular talent for hurling himself to the floor. In “Aisle show off” his understated dance with a supermarket trolley transforms it into a vehicle for his own public, joyous risk-taking. Slick Jack Rees charms us as he fused beat boxing with hat juggling and innovative use of an asthma inhaler. John-Paul Zaccarini’s excellent animalistic choreography brings the energy to a climax in a finale that sees the company whooping, stomping and soaring around the rafters.


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