Dance, physical theatre & circus review: Backup, Summerhall

Backup'Summerhall'Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018
Backup'Summerhall'Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018
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Rarely is so much accomplished in so short a time. In less than 30 minutes, without saying a single word, Belgian theatre companies Chaliwate and Focus demonstrate their clever theatricality, make us laugh with their ingenuity and then break our hearts in two with their profound message about climate change.

Backup, Summerhall (Venue 26) ****

They’ve also created a show that would genuinely entertain people of any age, who speak any language, which is no mean feat. Partly because visually, this is a feast for the eyes – and partly because when you’re dealing with real emotions, talking isn’t always necessary.

To begin with, the set is the star of the show. A ­snow-covered hill festooned with miniature trees and houses, has lights twinkling and smoke puffing from the chimneys. Along comes an equally tiny campervan containing, we discover later, three filmmakers on their way to capture footage of the icy landscape.

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Playing with perspective and size, the reporters come closer and closer, until three live performers are in the room, jostling for space in the van’s front seat then venturing out into the snow.

To begin with, everything is played for laughs, but when the ground beneath their feet becomes fragile, the mood shifts.

It’s then that the show’s title starts to make sense. The reporters, like the Earth, need a back-up plan – and we all need to back away from our destructive behaviours – before it’s too late, as a large, beautiful puppet polar bear and her baby demonstrate all too clearly. If there’s any flicker of disappointment, it’s that Backup doesn’t stick around for longer.

Although there’s much to be said for the “get in, get out” approach, another ten minutes would allow the story to unfold at a slightly gentler pace – and give us even more creative genius to wonder at.

• Until 26 August, 10:50am.