Tedros Girmaye devastates club-wielding ninjas; Pablo Meneu Barreira breaks free on straps after brushing his teeth continuously for 30 years; Maximilià Calaf Sevé is …Somewhere… Nowhere! in a hot dusty trampoline solo that draws inspiration from the writing of Paul Auster; frustrated Circus Space janitor Sergio Gonzalez Gallego impresses the ladies with acrobatics cribbed from the real students. Double Exposure is a fast running stream of ideas, and even if some of them couldn’t well survive outside the context of a degree showcase, still most are lively and eccentric, and benefit from the support of the short films that play before each act. These sequences, storyboarded by the students and directed by filmmaker Mark Morreau, are all short and charming—but it’s the students who use their film to introduce a world or sketch a frame narrative (rather than to introduce just themselves) that tend to be the ones presenting the most interesting work.
Joanne Foley’s film brings in a line-up of Cluedo characters: Reverend Green, Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum and Colonel Mustard are all in the drawing room, but where is Miss Peacock? On stage Joanne gets exactly the sleepy sexiness and disdain of the noir dame, and brings it to her performance on aerial hoop by her fluid, unconcerned negotiation of space and the character of her (unusual) sequences and transitions. It’s the night’s best aerial.
I was less taken with the swinging trapeze/cloudswing pieces; the technical material was often similar, and I felt more engaged watching a film of a trapeze artist’s POV than I did usually watching the live performances. Océane Peillet was the best of the swingers, I thought, and I especially liked the section of her act that was without music—I have no idea if it was intentional or a technical problem, but sometimes music glosses and smoothes a performance over so only its major actions are noticeable; in silence the smaller touches have greater presence.
There were a couple of pieces that didn’t quite come off on the night but have the scope to improve. Alice Allart’s trick cycle routine will be the lovely, quiet, graceful few minutes it can be when she is more comfortable with it and her face is able to show something more than intense concentration. A few of the jugglers/manipulators had more drops than they would probably like.
That said, the highlight of the night for me was a juggling piece: Sergio Pla Roig’s Alharaca. It takes its inspiration from the status of the jester or fool as a displaced individual: he is entertaining because he’s outside of the normal rules and gestures of court. The film, a series of paintings and a poem, sets it up beautifully. ‘He walks among the people, thinking about being happy, thinking about how what he does makes others happy.’ On stage with Roig, the jester, is a female mannequin which becomes a focal point for his shy foolish attention and a mirror of his own facelessness and isolation. Juggling seems like the perfect metaphor for the condition of a figure whose role is perpetually to entertain. As the film’s poem puts it: ‘Is there something more in your heart than only the impulse of walking?’ It’s small, but Alharaca has unexpected depth; it’s bittersweet and restless and open.