Middleton Hall, Milton Keynes (IF Milton Keynes International Festival)
July 25, 2018
A collaboration between Motionhouse and NoFit State Circus, created and directed by Motionhouse artistic director Kevin Finnan, Block fuses dance and acrobatics in a great 40-minute show. It all takes place on and around 24 huge rectangular blocks, the images and shapes they create constantly being deconstructed and reformed anew. Scenes and even little narratives come and go regularly, keeping everyone, young and old (and there were a lot of youngsters at this late-morning performance) totally engaged.
Block is actually designed to be performed outdoors in the round, thus giving it a context and a close relationship with the environment around it. In the IF Milton Keynes International Festival circus tent, itself inside the city’s shopping centre, it was much more a regular theatrical experience. The opening reminded me of a rock formation in some arid landscape. As the performers emerge from their hidey-holes, slithering down, crawling or walking crab-like in a bridge around the blocks, the image is one of lizards or various creepy-crawlies.
It soon becomes apparent that Block is, in fact, about the urban landscape and its different faces. Sometimes the performers suggest it can be an exciting and fun place. It can be crazily busy, or it can be marvellously still. Some of the best images actually come with the latter, the calm emphasised by what goes on around it.
The city can also be a place full of tension. One performer is frisked as if being stopped and searched. Giorgia Setaro is held against a wall by Lee Tinnion. When she tries to flee, she’s grabbed and unceremoniously thrust back against it. Some try to escape through cracks in a wall. Some make it, some don’t. The city can be dangerous too.
The energy and enthusiasm are non-stop. Those blocks are weighted and sprung, the cast of six diving, flipping, leaping, spinning and climbing over and through the ever-changing structures they build. Scarily efficient builders they are too. Just don’t let the health and safety people see them in action! The tumbling and circus elements may not be flashy but there are plenty of moment to make you gasp as someone is caught right at the last minute. No safety nets, no rigs, by the way.
There are moments of humour, especially from Joel Pradas Reguill, who manages to address a few comments to the many enthralled young children sat on the floor at the front. At one point he even tries to take a break sat amongst them. Not that he gets away with it for very long.
It ends with a huge tower reaching for the sky: a Tower of Babel perhaps. Literally handed round the outside by the others, Setaro heads for the top. Then it collapses. Suddenly we are back at the beginning and a pile a rocks or rubble. As the performers return to animalistic mode, perhaps that first reading was correct after all and that’s it’s a note that this is where mankind came from and, one day, where we will go back to; or maybe Block is simply one cycle of the development then destruction that mankind has inflicted on itself throughout time.
Block is one of the best meldings of circus acrobatics and dance around, one where everything has meaning and nothing is done purely for the ‘wow’ factor, even though that is there. Then, you wouldn’t expect anything else from Finnan and Motionhouse.
For Block tour dates in the UK and overseas, visit www.motionhouse.co.uk.