Tipping Point: Mesmerising Aerial Circus Is All Up In The Air
“Come on up and give it a go?” It only takes a nod of the head, a raise of the eyebrows, from one of Tipping Point’s vertiginous virtuosos to ask that question. The virtuoso in question has just suspended himself, upside down, spinning on a hanging ferris-wheel-cum-seesaw-thingy fashioned out of poles, hooks, and (one must assume) a whole lot of faith. No, the poor punter in the audience is decidedly not about to come on up and give that a go.
This mesmerising masterclass of aerial circus is a sort of pole dance, but not as we know it. Ockham’s Razor is a small company, numbering five extraordinarily stretchy souls — and for each acrobat is one giant metal pole, used either freestyle or suspended from the ceiling of Central St Martins’ cavernous Platform Theatre. Whether used individually or in combination, the poles can engineer any number of intriguing structures, gesture at any number of shapes, unfurl any number of trapezoid challenges, for the fivesome to silently negotiate with airborne shape-shifting.
The show is 70 minutes but we could watch it indefinitely. Theatre critics are humans too, and we have to write things down in our notepads, but every glance away from the stage means one nifty flippy thing which has gone unseen; a miniature tragedy.
The show is 70 minutes but we could watch it indefinitely.
The cast remark in a Q&A afterwards that Tipping Point is less about narrative than theme, which is “rituals”. The spectacle is arranged in the round — by the way, we’d highly recommend an early arrival to nab a front row seat — and the first thing the posse do is to define a circle to perform in by pouring salt on the floor. Ritualistic, certainly: there is a suggestion of creating an arena which is apt, because the performers’ shapes suggest confrontation with every (twist and) turn. It could be rivalry, it could be love: there all sorts of dramatic exchanges conducted at high altitude, and — the gang reveal afterwards — a surprising amount of improv, too.
Augmenting the humour it creates out of sparky character interactions, the show realises there’s fun to be had by exploring the sculptural qualities of the medium: creating the occasional visual pastiche which brings everything back from metaphorical realms into the cultural ‘here and now’. A simple wave of a pole can suggest one performer knighting another; a gang of performers hoisting a pole upright can recall the iconic image of American soldiers raising a flag in the second world war. And winching the flailing limbs of a performer onto a cruciform structure created out of poles has a whole religious symbolism that you could watch, re-watch and ponder to death.
But obviously, this spellbinding show belongs in a kingdom which transcends analysis like that, and that’s assisted in no small part by the surround-sound music, taking on all manner of implacable and worldly flavourings. Tipping Point is a very good advert for the London International Mime Festival. There are moves which you thought were only possible in video games: they deserve to be seen, and they deserve you to remark on them, “I’m not going up there and doing that”.
Tipping Point runs until 23 January 2016 at Platform Theatre, Handyside Street, London, N1C 4AA. Tickets from £18. Londonist saw this performance with a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 13 January 2016