Flip FabriQue, a young circus troupe from Quebec, has transplanted its internationally acclaimed show, ‘Catch Me’ (Attrape-Moi), to London for the first time, especially for the Underbelly Festival. It’s a light-hearted display of summer hijinks, incorporating humour, traditional circus art and aerial acrobatics but a potentially moving narrative is cast aside for clowning around.
The show’s opening includes an enthralling display of human fireworks – bodies soaring upwards and spinning in every direction – but the finale is a spectacle to rival New Year’s Eve. It has everything you’d expect from a troupe whose members have performed with Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Éloize: a giant trampoline, heart-stopping parkour, flips, somersaults, props and plenty of sassiness.
There are stunts aplenty but, overall, the show lacks emotion. An opaque storyline, about six friends reuniting at a summer cottage after 10 years, is erratic and confusing. The green and brown ‘cottage’ looks more like a tree house and the troupe uses it as a canvas for graffiti.
Surprisingly, only one performer has a defined role, cast as the joker and clown of the group. The rest are indistinguishable characters, further diluting the narrative. As a result, there’s far too much juggling and general silliness, all of which gets repetitive. An uninspiring soundtrack doesn’t help, although Barry Manilow is an unexpected high: precious minutes to enjoy released endorphins before they get zapped away by another sluggish track.
Fortunately, there many charming moments to compensate: acrobatic shenanigans with sleeping bags, body surfing on giant, inflatable balls (I really want to try that!), stunts on a Chinese pole, huge batons hurled back and forth, and spinning diabolos.
A Popsicle eating contest was popular with the audience, if not myself, and a brilliant routine with aerial straps was wonderful until it began to drag on. The token female performer spends much of her time as a nervous-looking sidekick, yet manages to outshine some of the guys whenever given an opportunity: contorting into positions on an aerial hoop as if her joints are made of putty, flipping herself onto a human tower, even balancing within a giant hula-hoop as it spins across the stage.
Running at 75 minutes, the show is slapstick fun for all ages, but parts of the production lack the finesse we’ve seen from rival troupes. The six performers are a passionate bunch, supremely talented and able to execute complex, daring feats but it wasn’t so long ago that Compagnie XY were in town, with acrobats leaping into human towers of four people.
Flip FabriQue’s efforts feel a bit safe in comparison, but there’s little more it can do in its current venue. I would love to see the show at the Roundhouse, or even staged outdoors, because I suspect I only saw a glimpse of the group’s talents at the Belly Theatre.
Performers: Christophe Hamel, Bruno Gagnon, Hugo Ouellet Côté, Jérémie Arsenault,
Camila Comin, Yann Leblanc Director: Olivier Normand Venue: Belly Theatre, Underbelly Festival Southbank Performance Dates: 17th May – 9th July 2017