Contemporary circus is probably the closest any human will come to experiencing the early 1920’s Dada scene in the 21st Century. Whilst not quite as ad-libbed as Dada was, it is a genre that clearly takes thinks to absurd extremes, oftentimes (but not always) says nothing and everything, and makes you consider the nature of art. One and the Other, a performance by two highly experienced performers, fits nicely into this genre. That being said, it is still a tad confronting, so probably not the best for comfortable audiences – plenty of coarse language, nudity, and adult themes to make it interesting.
The show, first and foremost, is an exploration of the body, especially how it moves and is still good, even when one grows old. Age clearly has not slowed Sue Broadway and Debra Batton down at all – and when the audience was shown their bodies it was very evident that they were powerful performers who maintained themselves well. Circus performance work would do that to a person of course, but was still an impressive sight. And there was still plenty of traditional circus tricks such as magic and juggling – which was pretty cool when blended with unusual artistic expression.
There was a suitable balance of pathos and humour in the show. Any circus performance has a mix of form, the clowns versus a more serious acrobatics show for example, but in this they often came within two breaths of each other. The audience were laughing along at some of the absurdities on display, and then they would be slammed by some backhanded comment that was just shocking. There was also plenty of commentary on social and cultural phenomena, including but not limited to the idea of aging, feminism, and life as a performer.
All in all, pretty Dada-esque.
A shout out to the hard-working musician in the performance, Teresa Blake. Playing along with electronic pre-recorded sounds is a tricky enough thing on its own – let alone when it relies on cues from the performers downstairs. It was fascinating watching Blake play – situated above the main show (a curious choice in and of itself), she was constantly on the move, and yet never distracted from the main event, all while making suitably atmospheric sounds with percussive punches when required.
Production wise, it was handled well, with good quality production equipment and visuals at most times. The lighting was impressive, and although the sound effects (those not produced acoustically) were a bit quiet, they nevertheless were very well timed, and if an audience member were to glance up behind them they would have seen a pair of very hard working individuals.
Overall, One and the Other is an excellent exploration of strangeness and performance. Although definitely not a show that pulled punches visually or thematically, nevertheless it is definitely worth checking out for those with an artistic bent, or if you like circus shows that are not for the faint hearted.
One and the Other is on at 7.30pm at La Mama from 17 – 28 October 2018. Tickets are available from La Mama’s website or the box office.