Theatre review: Switch and Tipping Point

I last went to the circus in Great Yarmouth circa 1985.

Obviously this was a remarkable feat considering I hadn’t yet been born.

Ok, I’d been born a bit and enough to remember the thrills, spills, gasps and heart-stopping happenings that went on – and that was before we’d set foot in the ‘big-top’.

My lovely mum is a meticulous checker. She likes to check she has everything before moving onto the next location, situation, other things ending in ‘ation.

I’m the same – I’m constantly declaring after a frantic rummage in my bag that I’ve

lost my phone!

Such is the frequency of these desperate and frankly inaccurate declarations, that I’ve been told that I’m now only allowed to exclaim

I don’t have an immediate visual on my phone but I’m sure if I calmed down and stopped over-dramatizing everything, it would reveal itself in my bag during the next second.

or something.

And so, just as we were to leave the foyer and enter the theatre, our excitement was brought to a halt by a frantic mother,

I’ve lost my purse!

purse AND chequebook, no less (the 80s ahhh).

My poor mother retraced her steps with a tension only known to a parent torn between finding the source of all financial security and life itself – and two sulking children who were but steps away from a world of wonderment and delight.

The two sulking children won out and oh how we laughed when early into the performance, a clown revealed that he had pickpocketed my mum in the foyer, gleefully bounding upto our seats with her purse.

I say we laughed – my mum was torn between an unequivocal sense of relief and the innate need to inflict violence and provoke some tears of a clown.

And so we finally come onto the point of this post and the rather wonderful and dramatic (for very different reasons) spectacle that was last night’s show at Upper Campfield Market – Switch and Tipping Point.

But why the overly indulgent and long anecdote about a thief clown? you ask.

Well I guess this is the closest thing to the circus spectacle I have come to since, with a heavy emphasis on ‘closest’ – for this was contemporary and a million miles away from clowns and strongmen.

In a double bill between Ockham’s Razor and Contact , myself and fellow audience members were treated to a wonderful evening of dance, meets acrobatics, meets aerial performance  with a stunning soundtrack to match.

Contact’s home on Oxford Road is currently undergoing building transformation and so its 2018 season is on a Manchester-centric tour of surprising and amazing venues. I was both surprised and amazed at last night’s location of Upper Campfield Market Hall, Deansgate, as previous to this, it was known to me as ‘that bit near Dimitris – there’s a gate’.

To the point where you could even see daylight through its…well not thatched but ‘something’ roof, it was a brilliant urban setting and one which made me declare (quietly)…

All things should be set in market halls forever

I live in Altrincham. It’s ingrained.

Beginning with Switch, this performance from Contact, was indeed developed with Ockham’s Razor, and featured young people from North Manchester. Both visually and symphonically, the performance with movement drawn from circus, dance and object manipulation, was hypnotic – not least the rhythmic sounds produced by the sticks held, twisted, turned, swung, brandished, swivelled, balanced, carried and…well, mastered.

Credit – Lee Baxter

It’s unbelievably difficult to try and describe, sum up, review artistic performance such as this as visuals, opinion, interpretation and indeed subjectivity are key. Indeed we’re told in the accompanying notes that the performance – sometimes as a unit, sometimes in battle, sometimes in unison, sometimes picking out its victim amongst the group, was to symbolise and reflect community, inclusion and integration.

Credit – Lee Baxter

And so I will say that the performance was intense, powerful, seamless and strong and indeed any implied parallels to life’s struggles, strains and joys came through with just the right amount of subtlety and clarity.

After 5 minutes to reset the stage, we were straight into the next performance – Ockham’s Razor’s aerial extravaganza.

Credit – Mark Dawson Photography

Sticks gave way to poles and the five performers added a visual to the concept of the circus ring, immediately creating a circle within which all movement took place.

Movement and manipulation of the poles was daring, graceful, elegant, masterful, comedic and beautiful.

Credit – Mark Dawson Photography

You would swear that the five performers weighed next to nothing, as they seemingly defied gravity, their lack of wings and all which we know of the laws of physics (I got a B, I know some), as they leapt, swung, balanced, teetered and flew through the air before us.

Credit – Mark Dawson Photography

I wasn’t the only audience member open-mouthed (I hope, anyway – I did have an element of ‘gawp’ about me last night) as we were treated to an hour of graceful performance and emotive music.

With a festival atmosphere in the hall – street food stalls and drinks surround the inner sanctum ‘stage’, audiences young and old will be transfixed by this show – go and see something different and if we all leave with the same look of wonderment I saw on a little girl’s face on the front row, then Contact and Ockham’s Razor are doing something very right.

And nobody stole my purse so, you know, winning!

Only on until Sunday 19 August,  don’t waste anymore time and head to contactmcr.com

Switch and Tipping Point take place at Upper Campfield Market Hall, Wed 15 – Sat 18 Aug, 7pm, with 2pm performances Sat 18 and Sun 19. Tickets are on sale now priced £15/£10 concessions available securely online at contactmcr.com or by phone on  0161 274 0600.


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