Catch Me at Underbelly
This summer, Catch Me, a show about friendship, nostalgia and a yearning for the days gone by, premieres at London’s Southbank. Wistful as it seems, the piece lends itself heavily to traditional clowning, so it’s location is more than fitting, setting up shop inside the bloated stomach of Underbelly’s upended purple cow.
Founded by a ragtag group of performing artists, circus troupe Flip FabriQue comes to London from Quebec, bringing with them all the energy and enthusiasm of the Canadian circuit. Boasting veterans from Cirque Afonse to Cirque du Soleil, Flip FabriQue aims to slap the serious out of us all, for God forbid grown-ups should lose their childish heart.
The show sees six friends at a pivotal point in their lives and is heavily steeped in nostalgia. We begin as the sun sets, not just on the last day of the holidays but for this group of comrades, the end of adolescence. Goodbyes are said and our companions head their separate ways, turning their backs on childhood itself, walking alone into adulthood. Ten years later they are reunited, quickly falling back into old patterns and fitting into old roles like a pair of comfortable shoes.
Through frenetic chaos the group revel in those glory days, returning again to the way that they once were, through play. Ricocheting across the tiny stage, they use every inch of the space – at times spilling over into the audience – such is their torrent of uncontainable energy. What the rather pedestrian set design lacks is made up for tenfold with immense economy of space – not a square inch is wasted.
The score is an eclectic mix: near-maudlin notes of the Cinematic Orchestra complements aerial silks, whilst Barry Manilow’s Copacabana joyfully accompanies a comedy-style juggling act.
But in the blur of so much action, moments of clarity cut through. There’s Cyr Wheel, but not as we’ve seen it before, with the tiny Camila Comin turning the giant hoop into her own personal playground. A near-poetic torchlit acrobalance act sends 100 twisted shadows dancing over the cavernous arena, to haunting effect. Daredevil trampoline helixes are performed with an air of such nonchalance it’s laughable, and Hugo Ouellet-Cote’s hypnotic aerial silk display brings a touching moment of poignancy in a sea of silliness.
Though the cast dazzles, each positively brimming with wild carefree abandon, it’s Flip FabriQue’s founding father Bruno Gagnon who steals the show. Mirth personified, his role as the little brother of the group sees him chatter and squeak through the piece’s entirety, winning over the audience’s hearts, one deliberate tumble at a time. Whether it’s being thrown around rag-doll-esque in a cloud of chalk or gleefully demonstrating his juggling skills, he’s a delight to watch.
For a show that has friendship, memory and a glorious return to childhood as its underlying themes, Catch Me is surprisingly earnest. That’s not to say it’s not undeniably cheesy at times, but it’s sheer self-awareness gives it an irresistible charm. In the end, Catch Me offers just what we all need in these dark and devise times – an excuse to regress, to head back to childhood and, for one golden hour and a bit, leave our troubles behind.
Photos: Richard Davenport / The Other Richard
Catch Me is at Underbelly Festival from 17th May until 9th July 2017. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for Catch Me here: