Though they do not speak, the cast of Filament manage to weave a complex and insightful narrative about the tumbles we all take as we grow. This, in combination with their seriously impressive acrobatics, makes for an entertaining and emotional performance.
Though billed as a circus show, it feels like Filament focuses more on the storytelling elements. Rather than weakening the performance, instead this makes it well-rounded. We are introduced to a cast of eight teenagers, each going through their own experience. There’s relationship troubles, self-esteem issues, questions about sexuality, and how to fit in. Though it’s clear there are two protagonists throughout, each character is given an equal amount of time, partnered with an acrobatic performance, which creates a sense of balance and continuity.
The skills of these performers cannot be overstated. Stand-out routines include that on the aerial silks, the Cyr wheel, and the aerial hoop (I think I like it when people spin or hang from a height). The artists move with grace and obvious strength (particularly the handstand performer!), which ties into themes of the resilience of youth. Though the story is built around the circus routines, it does not feel forced, and the dances are genuine and moving. The piece set to Kings of Leon’s ‘Sex is On Fire’ was particularly joyful. The energy of the dancers is palpable and hard to resist.
Perhaps my only criticism is of the opening sequence, which is a little stop-start. The dancers seem hesitant to get going – though once they do, they are electric. This sequence, and some of the scenes in between acts, could do with a little more polishing, but they in no way diminish the effect of the wider performance.
My favourite aspect of this show is the plot. I am always pleasantly surprised when performative skill is matched by well-developed plot lines, and Filament does not disappoint. The vignettes in between the circus acts are by moments light-hearted and entertaining, by others sombre and vulnerable. Further, it’s a delight to see queer narratives portrayed, though I was apprehensive to how well this one would be performed. The romance between the trapeze artist and the handstand performer is sweet and heart-warming. Poignantly, it does not stand alone, but weaves into the broader narrative, which elevates it from being a token queer story to a crucial part of the plot.
The show rounds off with a gorgeously honest routine between the juggler and the contortionist, effectively bringing the tale to a close. The final number, with all eight performers, is ecstatic. It reminds us of the relentless energy of youth, the friendships we find in one another, and tells us that no matter how difficult it might get, we will always find a way out.
Also, we should all sort out our relationship arguments via hula hoop. The world would be a much more dazzling place if that were the norm.
Filament runs until the 24th of August – buy tickets here.
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