Controlled Falling Project
Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts
June 4 – 7 2014
Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway
Amazing feats in the Acrophysics Laboratory
Enter the laboratory of acrobatic impossibilities where impulsive energy and intricate action combine to create a thrilling experiment in control, as these dangerously talented and fearlessly curious acrobats challenge the extremes of their physical ability.
In the Controlled Falling Project, the scene is an old-time physics laboratory run by a mad scientist and three assistants. A blackboard gives the titles of five experiments, and around the stage are chairs, other bits of wood and poles, a big work lamp, and a jointed 2D wooden female figure. The time seems to be about the 1950s (or maybe a little earlier). The all-male group wear trousers, white shirts, ties, braces, and small-brimmed hats.
The show starts with the three assistants reporting for work. They kid around like naughty schoolboys, and the older scientist has some trouble managing them. The format is that the scientist shows the team the task, they set it up, and then perform the experiments, interspersed with bits of clowning. Some of the clowning is slightly sinister, with the men manipulating, caressing and dancing with the wooden female figure, and playing with small doll-like effigies. A variety of mostly cheery music (from jazzy to klezmer) accompanies the acts, as well as the mad scientist live on drums.
My favourite experiment was the Fibonacci, based on spiral shapes (and referring to the mathematical Fibonacci Sequence). In a low-key start, the three performers spiral around each other, swapping hats. The climax is an amazing act with the Roue Cyr (Cyr Wheel), like a giant hoop. The wheel circles the stage, with the performer spinning around it and inside it in various unbelievable ways, using its momentum. Oh, I wish I could do that!
The teeterboard act that concluded the show was breathtaking. The performers jump up and down on the ends of the seesaw-like apparatus, catapulting each other into the air, and executing more and more daring aerial manoeuvres.
In all the acts, the performers achieved incredible feats, from tumbling and balancing in human pyramids, and demonstrating ‘controlled falling’ in the dismounts, to synchronised hand balancing on small blocks mounted on poles. The second act involved setting chairs up on top of each other in a miraculously balanced ‘staircase’, with the three performers doing handstands, each one step higher than the other.
All the acts had the audience whooping and cheering, and the hour-long show passed in a flash. During the show, ThisSideUp award themselves the Nobel Prize for Acrophysics, and I think they deserve it.