at C Eca, Wednesday 15th August 2012
*Written for http://www.StageWon.co.uk. Published here: http://stagewon.co.uk/news/view/festival-icarus-a-story-of-flight/*
I’ve been thinking a lot about the use of circus in theatre recently. I’m a firm believer in total theatre, but it can only be achieved when the various aspects are fully incorporated. The use of circus skills, for example, has to support the story and vice versa. This is certainly the case with Square Peg’s Rime, which uses the rhythms of its source material to inform its choreography. In Backhand Theatre’s Icarus: a Story of Flight this isn’t the case, as it feels like impressive acrobatics are used simply to back up a thin storyline and poor performances.
In this story, Icarus has fallen to earth and finds another human, Guy, with whom he attempts to find a fallen star. It’s overly simplified and the text condescends its audience, being full of cliché and slow. The story of Icarus should be easy to slot acrobatics into, but Backhand fail to make these set pieces into much more than interesting diversions; they go a way to visualising a story, but don’t add anything on their own but visual effect. Spectacle is all well and good, but it must be justified.
Apparently, the company recruits actors and then trains them in circus skills, which is surprising considering the performances are generally wooden and unbelievable. Lewis Davidson and Gavin Maxwell impress with their aerial skills, but when on the ground fail to make an impression. Granted, the script’s language is hard to speak well, but more could be made of the storytelling element.
The circus skills alone manage to captivate and are at least understandable in the story, but they are never truly melded into the play, making them feel a little too showy. Some weak puppetry and repetitive music could also be more thought through, but again do well to support the story. Ultimately, Icarus contains within it many interesting ideas, but throws them at an audience without much cohesion by actors who aren’t quite up-to-scratch.