Edinburgh Festival Fringe dance, physical theatre and circus reviews: Escalate | In/Outside: Visible Things | Dances Like a Bomb | Habitat

In Kelly Apter’s latest round-up of reviews, she marvels at some supremely clever juggling, a Japanese performer skilled in calligraphy and contemporary dance, and an honest expression of the ageing process.

Escalate ****

Underbelly George Square (Venue 300) until 28 August

Juggling, like all contemporary circus skills, is always looking for a new way to shine. And this supremely clever show from Australia’s Throw Catch Collective proves how much today’s jugglers are willing to think outside the box. The central theme here is rhythm – or more specifically, the percussive sounds that juggling balls, hoops and clubs can make when they land in your hand.

At times, an entire tune is built up as items fly quickly between performers, especially when augmented by the technical wizardry of musician/composer, Samuel Kreusler. He’s also a very fine classical guitarist, sitting calmly centre stage fingering the strings while all manner of throwing and catching goes on around him. On occasion, Kreusler joins in the action, but most of the master juggling comes courtesy of Byron Hutton and Richard Sullivan.

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It’s hard to imagine just how many hours went into finessing this show, with its unbelievably tricky twists and turns. Often, the manoeuvres taking place between the two men are so intricate, it would be impossible to describe what’s happening. You just know that it’s fast, rhythmic and hugely impressive. A small smile of pleasure passes between the men whenever a particularly complex trick pays off, proving that even at this level nothing is guaranteed.

As the show’s name suggests, each routine builds either in number of balls/hoops/clubs, speed, intensity or all three. Sometimes it’s clever, sometimes it’s musically witty, and sometimes it’s beautiful – thanks in no small part to the work of lighting designer, Nick Moloney.

Beams of bright white light focus in on a single ball, on two performers or on 12 flying hoops. Then frames of blue and red, or multi-coloured spotlights help set the stage aglow with vibrant movement and vivid hues.


Kelly Apter

In/Outside: Visible Things ***

C Aquila (Venue 21) until 27 August

Skilled in calligraphy and contemporary dance, Japanese performer Chiharu Kuronuma not only demonstrates but fuses her twin talents.

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At first, movement has its moment, as she puts her training from London’s Trinity Laban to good use. Kuronuma has yet to pick up her paintbrush, but we can already see the parallels – the swish and flow of her limbs echoing the inkwork to come. An empty frame, pushed around the stage then sits ripe with potential in a corner.

When Kuronuma finally pulls out her calligraphy equipment, we see her choreography come back to life again via swift, black strokes on a long white plastic canvas. Using watery ink, the delicate symbols run like dark tears to the floor. We don’t know what the markings signify or mean, but it’s interesting to watch what springs from Kuronuma’s assured hand.

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In the final section, lo-fi handiwork is replaced by digital technology as other marks are projected onto her art. The beat-heavy soundtrack feels incongruous at times, and the show is a little slow in places, but Kuronuma is a confident performer with both her body and brush.

Kelly Apter

Dances Like a Bomb ***

Zoo Southside (Venue 82) until 27 August

Finola Cronin and Mikel Murfi aren’t here to sugar-coat the aging process. Dressed in their underwear, they pull and pluck at each other’s flabby, saggy and loose-skinned bits, acknowledging their presence but unashamed. It’s moments such as this that feel rooted in the collective experience. We will all, if we’re fortunate, reach the point where our bodies carry the evidence of a life lived.

There’s also a moment of real poignancy when they sit silently, their thoughts heard via a recording of their own voices, sharing memories and regrets. We get a sense that Cronin (or at least the character she’s playing) is happier with her lot than Murfi. Which at times makes his movement more compelling – there’s an angry urgency to the closing number, where he flings himself around the floor, while Cronin sashays daintily.

Dances Like a Bomb reaches across the stage/auditorium divide less successfully during the segments that feel too personal and too specific for universal connection. But regardless, it’s wonderful to see older bodies move, older minds share and, crucially, older people being listened to.

Kelly Apter

Habitat **

Dance Base (Venue 22) until 27 August

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So many interesting elements are brought together in this solo show, from the subject matter to the design, it’s a shame it coasts along at such a slow pace.

Inspired by the hermit crab, which (much like us) occupies then leaves its home once it outgrows it, there’s a socio-political metaphor to be explored here, that isn’t.

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Crossing the stage in a crab-like stretch, performer Bettina Szabo is very watchable and the paper sculpture she inhabits and lights from the inside, made of 600 cones, is beautiful. But too much repetition and overly-long movement phrases diminish its ability to engage.

Kelly Apter

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