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Reviews/Circus/Fringe World Festival

Tackling plastic through acrobatics

15 February 2019

Kinetica, 450 Years ·
Big Top at The Woodside Pleasure Garden, 13 February ·
Review by Robert Housley ·

Some scary numbers are linked to the incredible amount of time it takes for plastic to break down in the environment.

Perth circus school Kinetica has chosen 450 Years for the title of its 2019 Fringe World show to emphasise the point. It is an estimation of the time it takes for a plastic cup, or bottle (depending on your source), to decompose.

It’s a sobering figure, as is the disturbing claim in the show blurb that “two million plastic bags are used worldwide every minute”.

In 450 Years, Kinetica “imagines a future world where plastic pollution has taken over and rules our everyday existence”.

Consequently, myriad forms of plastic appear throughout the work,  as props, costumes, hair ties, belts and environmental debris. The 10-member troupe – two males and eight females – navigate the challenges of working with the material, which is either integral to, or in the midst of, its 10-plus routines.

Playfulness and humour are also integrated into several of the acts, starting with an acrobatic routine in which plastic bags are juggled while an animated male performer dances to the first of many upbeat tunes.

The hula hoop features in another routine, with the apparatus utilised in perpetual motion whilst a female performer creatively manoeuvres it in and out of all four limbs. Her single foot work while upside-down is gravity-defying. The entire troupe emerges from backstage at the conclusion of her solo, to form a conga line with hula hoops that culminates in a visually stunning human pyramid.

A “bottle-crushing” contortionist shows us how to reduce the size of plastic bottles using numerous body parts while balancing atop a 1.5m wooden table… not a level of versatility required when recycling them at home.

The larger part of the show is dedicated to aerial acts, though a few too many for the overall balance of the 50-minute work. Different airborne apparatus – a corner-hung large cube, silks, a lyra (suspended hoop), straps and a net – ensure, however, that there is sufficient aerial variety to maintain audience attention.

Striking sculptured poses in mid-air is no mean feat, and the standard of these routines is uniformly high.

While environmental awareness is an admirable theme – and there are moments when it is manifest in this work – realising it with circus skills is a challenge that isn’t quite met.

Nonetheless, 450 Years is an accomplished effort.

450 years shows at the Big Top until February 17.

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Author —
Robert Housley

Robert Housley returns to arts journalism following a 20-year hiatus managing performing arts venues. He was the last arts editor of Perth’s Daily News and has worked as a journalist in London, Cape Town and Amsterdam. Robert’s favourite item of playground equipment is the swing and its enduring challenge: how high can you go?

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