Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016: Unsuitable
Photo credit: Tumble Circus
Tumble Circus’s latest offering ‘Unsuitable’ doesn’t quite live up to its title. With its five strong cast dressed in what appear to be white vests and underwear, there’s a sense of innocence to the whole affair. Of nostalgia even. Looking like classic strong men, its two male cast members, brandishing sideburns and intriguing moustaches, look as if they just stepped out of a Barnum and Bailey tent. Nothing remotely unsuitable. There’s no spectacle here, no razzle dazzle, no big parade, fireworks or razzamatazz. It’s all pared back to bodies performing at the height of their physical prowess. On the floor, in the air, it’s all about physical dexterity, balance, precision and synchronisation. If those despicable Cirque de Soliel are a big rock concert, ‘Unsuitable’ is an acoustic set, more raw, more honest and much more intriguing when it hits its stride.
‘Unsuitable’ is a mixed bag of routines and performances. After a somewhat naïve and childlike opening with a TNT plunger, there’s a disturbing tale of a woman’s visit to the city which flips ‘Unsuitable’ into a darker, and performatively less interesting place. The flip flopping between the serious and the light runs throughout ‘Unsuitable’ and doesn’t always work well, with the former rarely being as interesting or as engaging as the latter, except when the latter forgets about its acrobatic roots. On occasion there’s a wonderful overlap, as books are flung and barbed wire binds, but efforts to explore deeper issues usually run a distant second to ‘Unsuitable's’ rich vein of acrobatic humour. Their Tina and Helga aerial routine is breathtakingly good, as is the aerial display with silk and the penultimate aerial act. But, likes it opening, 'Unsuitable's' attempt to get the big laugh at the end disappoints a little, for Tumble Circus are at their best when their physical routines are matched with clowning around, rather than when they try to be outright clowns.
Like its eclectic soundtrack, which features everything from German Hip Hop to Sixties classics to Poly Styrene and X-ray Spex, ‘Unsuitable’ features a wide array of routines, not all of which fit well together. At times it feels as if 'Unsuitable' is trying too hard to be everything to everyone and loses sight of what it is in itself. Though the physical routines are wonderfully executed and riveting to watch, they aren’t always contextualised in the most interesting of ways. Even so, there’s something innately powerful about Tumble Circus’s stripped back, no make-up approach to physical performance, and something wonderfully honest.
‘Unsuitable by Tumble Circus runs at The Project Arts Centre as part of The Tiger Dublin Fringe until September 24th