Review by Kate Gaul
Belgium Théâtre d'Un Jour present ‘Reclaim” in one of the many Spiegeltents that popup across the meadows of Edinburgh. This is circus but not as we know it. “Reclaim” is an imaginary ritual which is performed in the round. This is not a show, but a collective experience. An opera singer, two cellists, five acrobatic circus performers perform inside a circle surrounded by the audience in what sometimes is a disturbing closeness. The company proclaim that “Reclaim” an act of resistance. Inspired by the Ko’ch ritual, “Reclaim” draws the audience close to examine life and imagine a sustainable future. That the acrobatics on display become a form of secular prayer.
The event opens with the sound of a drum and a jagged, brutal folk-dance sequence from the company. The performers wear dog-like masks seeming made of skeletal bone and fur and it is intimidating as these dog-like characters know no polite boundaries as they push, nudge and jostle with audience to find each other. On all fours this work is extremely visceral.
When the aerial work begins the company throw each other into the air performing somersaults, flips and create tall pyramids of incredible virtuosity. This is all happening very close to the audience, remember, and it is breath-taking. Sometimes they are still animals, sometimes they are an exotic cult conjouring magic! Emotions in the audience are further released as an axe is dragged close to our feet and swung with incredible force above our heads.
The drama is accompanied by the work of two cellists and a singer performing baroque music across a range of European languages (Armenian, English, German, Italian). The music performances are key to the overall experience, and, following the themes of transformation, the musicians are not just musicians. One of the cellists continues to play as she is lifted one acrobat on top of another high into the air. The singer, Blandine Coulon takes on simultaneous roles as actor, dancer, acrobat; all without a single quiver in her voice. It’s incredible!
As the show progresses, audience members are literally lifted into the experience, as acrobats move them across the performance circle, are stood on, asked to assist with holds. It is daring. Many are drawn onto the stage for the finale. The term immersive theatre is common currency, yet this Belgian company, T1J, creates a visceral experience that is truly worthy of the description.
International circus is well celebrated as part of Edinburgh Fringe. “Reclaim” is a stunning combination of singing, acrobatics, dance, drama, and cello that playing fills you with the joy at what the human body can do and be. As the company declares “After years of distancing from each other, this powerful collective experience allows us to recover and reclaim what our world needs urgently – humanity. The future is not what will happen to us, but what we will do.”