Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Review: And the Little One Said...


Presented by the Candy Butchers.

I should have worn a pair of brown underpants to Jess Love’s solo show as I was fairly shitting myself for at least half of its duration. Here’s a list of things that I honestly believed could have caused physical injury to me during the piece:

- Several dozen six-inch nails

- Spring-propelled arrows

- Rollerskate wheels

- Hoops spinning so close to my head that I could feel the breeze they produced

- A skipping rope

That’s not in order of fear-level. The skipping rope was probably the one that kicked my arse so bad that I have to type this while standing up.

It probably goes without saying that I was in the front row. It might surprise you to know that this Capital Idea blog doesn’t come with any kind of workcover arrangement though so it’s not like I go to these things hoping for a railroad bolt through the cheek and a few sweet months of paid leave. My masochistic theatrical tendencies are pure of motive.

Love’s show is a killer (so far just figuratively, but I reckon it’s only a matter of time). She plays cute while pulling off lethal circus-inspired routines that seem like burlesque or sideshow acts before you realise the tricks involved. Most of them involve putting herself in great danger and somehow surviving; others are feats of dexterity that are jaw-dropping (cf. the skipping bit).

I’ve never seen the Candy Butchers, the group Love comes from and under whose name this show is appearing. I’ll certainly catch the next thing they do, if this in any indication. Love’s act is aligned with the loose movement in circus I’ve described earlier in regards to Skye Gellman’s work – I’m tempted to come up with a hip new term for it like Circuss or Circusp or Sur-cus or something but that would instantly make it lame. And besides, I don’t know if this is really a movement or anything; just that a whole bunch of people are suddenly doing things with the form that go beyond a ‘trend’ and instead make circus the most interesting art form in Melbourne at the moment. I was thinking that before I even knew it was true. Now I do.

The only time I have seen Love was in the last round of Moira Finucane’s Burlesque Hour, and she seems a bit like the twisted offspring of Finucane herself. My only reservation towards And the Little One Said... is the ironic smile Love frequently employs during the scary bits. Finucane does that perfectly; I think Love’s routines would work better with a different demeanour. Gellman, for instance, has a uniquely affectless presence during his circus acts – not deadpan Buster Keaton-style clowning, but a complete disappearance into the act itself. It’s all the more startling because circus usually comes with a frontispiece, an attitudinal disclaimer that makes physical wonder more palatable, less confronting (and by extension less sublime). Love still has that double-movement in her presentation, wearing the mask of the cheery carny as she does things that send shivers up your spine. This is just technical talk, though. I might be simply killing time while I wait for my undies to finish the rinse cycle.

Ends Saturday at the North Melb Town Hall.

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