Review: Chivaree’s CRASH showcases potential of contemporary circus

Winterville returned to Clapham Common this month to kick off festivities in its usual style, but this time, winter revellers can certainly expect to see something different when Chivaree Circus debut their brand-new production CRASH.

A circus troupe’s re-imagining of a 19th century French ballet set in the Scottish countryside is an image that sounds like it could have been conjured up by somebody who had a few too many glasses of mulled wine.

While it’s long way from your typical family circus, the show is happening and it gives a whole new meaning to London’s alternative festive experience.

Known for setting the pace in the London circus scene after their award-winning production Becoming Shades, Chivaree proved, once again, they aren’t afraid to put on a show that breaks boundaries.

Inspired by the 19th century French ballet La Sylphide, CRASH is a retelling of this European folktale through a masterful cocktail of impressionist circus, heart-stopping acrobatics and astounding aerial dance.

The acrobatic and aerial displays are thrilling. Watching a performer push their strength to the limit is a suspenseful yet beautiful act. But what really makes the show compelling is that we, the audience, are sat within metres of the action in the festival’s intimate venue.

Even if our eyes did wander for a second, the mirrors surrounding the walls made sure that nobody missed a second of the action, making CRASH an interactive and immersive theatre experience for all.

The audience collectively gasped at the closing aerial acts where the female performers precariously positioned their bodies into gracefully balanced poses that seem incomprehensible when hanging so far off the ground.

The acrobatic feats are powerful, yet it is the darker edge of the performance that really draws the audience into this mysterious world.

The performers are accompanied throughout by a hauntingly beautiful electronic soundtrack – composed and performed by Sam West and Sarah Hezen – which creates a tense and eerie atmosphere, heightening the impact of the unexplainable aerial acrobatics.

Whilst the show is difficult to fault for its immersive display of physical feats, it isn’t without its problems.

For those without a prior knowledge of La Sylphide, the story seems hidden and disjointed.

And for the frequent circus goers out there, the acrobatics are probably nothing that you haven’t seen before.

That said, circus has clearly moved on and Chivaree’s ambition of providing us with something new deserves credit.

CRASH is a visually compelling show, but falls short of the ‘wow factor’ that audiences may expect for the £21.40 price.

CRASH creative producer, Edward Gosling, said: “It’s nice to bring something different to Winterville.

“We are trying to move things in our own direction by combining acrobatics with beautiful music and compelling, alternative narratives.

“Circus is in a place now where it’s constantly evolving into different areas.

“Our show is darker and aimed at people who like something a little more alternative and edgy.

“We want to put on a spectacle that people can be immersed in and fall in love with.

“A viewer once told us that it feels like a form of grown-up circus. I love that quote because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

CRASH will play on selected dates until 22 December. More information here

Feature photo credit: Max Webster.

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