Review by Kate Gaul
0471 Acro Physical Theatre from Taiwan present 50 minutes of sheer bliss and one of my top ten experiences at Edinburgh Fringe this year. Founded in 2020 by Sun, Cheng-Hsueh and Hsia Ling, the troupe is one of the few circus troupes in Taiwan that specializes in stacking acrobatics and is dedicated to using the unique body aesthetics of acrobatics to create visual images that defy gravity and turn the theatre into a world of imagination. Stacking is what it says – humans piling higher and higher into the air via each other.
0471 Acro Physical Theatre started with small-scale experimental performances. In 2022, the troupe embarked on the “Research Project on the Training System of Stacking Techniques”, which aims at bringing more diverse circus arts to Taiwan by developing stacking acrobatics through training and innovation and creating artistic and commercial performances. Dance Base in Edinburgh is the perfect venue for this work – a venue with an outstanding program of dance and theatre for the Fringe this year. It also has that immaculate elegance of a professional dance studio which is the perfect canvas for “Duo”
“Duo” is dance-infused, acrobatic creation for two performers, Sun Cheng-Hsueh and Hsia Ling. This is both virtuosic in its inception and heart-breaking in its execution. The space is set up with a large table and 2 chairs. A light bulb swings above the table. The simplicity in the design is deceptive. The acrobat-dancers dance on and under the table and the chairs, they fight over clothes hangers; they use a jacket and dress as puppets to represent themselves, or to represent memories of each other, or to show inner emotional states. There are scenes of domestic life: washing, sorting clothes, playing cards, dancing. They recall their first moments of love. Beyond the love and companionship there is everyday conflict too. The ever-changing shifts, twists and turns of a fluctuating relationship are expressed with a seamless physical grace and strength, loaded at times with a tender emotional vulnerability. Whether lifting each other up or bringing each other down, ultimately everything this onstage couple have to 'say' is in their bodies.
When it comes to the acrobatics this is a riveting experience and a must-see for audiences who enjoy the thrills and spills of physical artistry and performers working to their physical limits. The added emotional layer achieved by two bodies in a domestic context creates a tender, elegant and subtly layered experience.