It's the finest circus show in town but one that raises some questions about the role of women.


It's the finest circus show in town but one that raises some questions about the role of women.

Like The 7 Fingers’ Sequence 8, that played in the same theatre back in September last year, Traces is an ensemble piece that explores the human aspect of circus by mixing big standout moments with lots of group work and unexpected choreography. The 7 Fingers have a very distinct style that constantly breaks the fourth wall with little turns and feints, and while there is a tightness of the movements that show impeccable training, there is a silliness that means performers don’t have to take any of it too seriously.

Having all of the performers on stage throughout means there is huge potential for interaction of movements between them, but some of my favourite moments are the solo pieces. It’s good to see a show where every so often one of the performers really lays down some circus truth.

Enmeng Song and his diabolo is the best I have ever seen live. Mixing flips with breakneck spins and technical manoeuvres, he performs an act that really is as “electrifying” as the promo posters have promised. There are those who may look down on more niche aspects of juggling disciplines, such as the diabolo but Song proves that this can be truly exciting when pushed to its limits. While he falters a little at the end of the act while manipulating 3 diabolos at once, the audience cheers him all the harder for attempting it after the virtuosity of what has gone before.

Elsewhere, Kevin Beverley pulls off a dance trapeze act that manages to feel fresh and interesting, largely due to choreography that feels different to what is usually on offer in a circus show. Yann Leblanc nails a cyr wheel act, whose personality comes from the fact that rather than go for something floaty and ethereal (which is done to death in the circus world), he instead opts for performing to Dropkick Murphy’s I’m Shipping Up To Boston, all the while looking like a young Wolverine. It is absolutely fantastic and a brave yet supreme choice.

One of the opening acts, a hand to hand routine by Harley Mcleish and Anne-Marie Godin has some beautifully executed flips to inverted catches. Gypsy Snider (the choreographer) has again done beautiful work here, so much of the movements feels really unexpected. It’s not just the solo pieces, the group work feels consistently high level, and at each summersault, flip, throw and catch you are never sure who is going to execute the next impressive feat.

One criticism of this show would be the obvious gender imbalance. It is not just that there are 6 guys but only 1 girl but it is the role she plays. While her hand-to-hand routine is an amiable enough affair, it features a vague narrative of a love relationship going back and forth. This is not only a shocking cliché from an otherwise inventive company, it also positions her as defined by a romantic connection to a male performer.

Elsewhere, she draws a heart on one of the performers; when they are playing with skateboards hers is the only one that has a heart on it and when they play with a basketball she puts it under her shirt to mimic pregnancy. I can’t help but question why it is so necessary to call out her status as a women, which is all the more heightened by her isolation as the only female performer.

It is a strange choice in Sequence 8 to have the two girls change into dresses at one point in the show, Traces does exactly the same thing by having Godin do a solo aerial strap act while wearing a floaty red dress (all the other cast where suit trousers and shirts / t-shirts). In a second huge cliché, the lone women in the floaty red dress (as seen in Bianco and Cirkopolis et al), but added up with the other signifiers it seems that the gender politics here need to be called out and questioned. I cannot see any justification for them.

Having said that, this show is of a fantastically high standard and wins on so many different levels. For the next month the Peacock theatre steals it from the South Bank – this is where you will see the most interesting circus in London. The 7 Fingers, are disarming in their approach, yet wonderfully effective.

The show runs runs till 12th July.

Traces. By The 7 Fingers. Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London WC2A 2HT. 10 June 2015.