• Bristol Harbourside Festival

    Bristol Harbour Festival | Photo: Paul Box

    Opening the circus stage on a brutally hot Sunday, Circomedia presented a short variety style line-up mixing degree and BTEC students. The clear standout was Steven Allen’s corde lisse routine—no gimmick, no overlay, just beauty in movement, and a blend of influences that borrows from other artists while retaining something of Steven’s own character. The rhythm of it isn’t perfect—it goes too often between quick movements and sudden halts—but it's a leap forward from his routine in last year's BTEC Christmas show, and just the latest point on an upward trajectory that probably has a long way still to go.

    There was a different style of corde lisse from Joanna Palmer, whose routine drew its musical and aesthetic style from Edward Scissorhands, and was performed on three spaced, adjacent ropes. It looks wonderful: the most common movements and positions made new by the triple-rope set-up, Joanna poised at the centre of a cone of radiating lines like a queenly spider. The gothic look actually worked fine on the sunniest day for months, but, through no fault of its own, the piece suffered as Joanna kept swinging into line with the cut of intense white light that reflected from the silvery sphere of the Millennium Square Planetarium like a spacecraft’s disabling weapon. You didn’t want to look away; there just wasn’t really any choice if you valued your retina.

    More aerial from Boldo, who did a straps routine in some awful tight white trousers with flare and a little glitter, and then also a spinning cube routine—basically whipping a large, lightweight cuboid frame around himself; I might not have liked it so much in other circumstances, but on the day it seemed like the right kind of spectacle and the metal of the cube scintillated brilliantly in the sun.

    Circus Space graduates Collectif and then… presented a doubles double cloudswing (i.e. two swings, at different heights, and two aerialists) piece that had an attractive practical simplicity—the performers directed their attention and energy toward each other rather than extroverting it. I think it worked better standing alone than, as I last saw it, in the Circus Space ensemble performance Say What You Like… for Watch This Space, but wasn’t sure what it drove at with the mesh of recorded voices that swamped the soundtrack toward the end.

    Also performing, Beyond the Bounce were a suited German duo exchanging juggling balls from a suitcase like high-price contraband. I liked one performer especially (the handsomer one), who was either playing or just being a calm, dry introvert—a rare character-type for performers (although perhaps less so for jugglers). Acrobalance duo the LIT Circus Company worked very well as a double act—the physical difference between base and flyer drawn out into light and gravid personalities—while diabolist Asher Tea was the expert street performer, working the audience into a frenzy of booing before making his big trick.

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