Celebrating ten years, Mirabilia Festival in Northern Italy showcases international work which aims to challenge any preconceived notions of what circus, dance and theatre can do. This year sees them team up with those closer to home, as many of the artists performing are based in or around Scotland: this is the Focus Scotland program (see my previous posts).
Above all, what the festival does is display an eclectic array of multi-disciplinary work which draws from rich traditions of street theatre and Commedia Dell’Arte, to more contemporary sources like hip-hop/urban dance.
French veterans Le Cirque Bidon’s Bulle de Reve is a joyous romp through circus tropes, tempered by their incredible band who play gorgeous gypsy music throughout the show. Although the use of horses and chickens proves somewhat divisive, this most dysfunctional family have a vaudevillian sense of anarchy and moments of genuine beauty, as evinced by the silk aerial work which is breathtaking.
Here, The Strongman is a flamboyant figure, and along with his idiot savant brother he provides a choreographed slapstick reminiscent of the Marx Brothers at their most inventive. A scene with Grandmaman’s old car is stretched to absurd levels, and a strutting fashion parade created from bin liners provides bawdy humour. Proving circus can transcend language, their robust skills appeal to the whole family without compromising their artistry.
In sharp contrast, Paniclab‘s The Fox and the Hound is an existentialist mash-up that’s definitely not family-oriented. Joseph Mercier’s award-winning company have stroked pop culture before, notably with superhero show R.I.O.T. but this is a very different beast. Nietzschean ideology around the death of the ego rubs up with Disney’s impossible notions of family as the source of all happiness, and it’s a blast. Two deadpan dudes in animal onesies explore the legacy of the 90s by re-framing slacker culture: it’s as if Bill and Ted got into literature and developed a social conscience. We may have gone to bed with Kurt Cobain, they suggest (paraphrasing Rita Hayworth) but we woke up with Justin Bieber. As they croon grunge songs and urinate into a kids’ paddling pool, the show could be perceived as frivolous, but their steely-eyed stares and high-level text suggest otherwise.
Nogravity4Monks’ Trek #1 is a stunning, heart-stopping piece of street theatre. Conceived by Andrea Loreni and Tiziano Scali, performer Loreni walks along a 16 mm steel cable tightrope, 60 m long, suspended above the Piazza Santa Rosa without the use of a safety net. This in and of itself would be spectacular and terrifying enough, but Loreni then proceeds to play the cable beneath him like a musical instrument, accompanied by his incredible band on guitars, viola and cello. Vibrations of the human form become almost indistinguishable from improvised sounds. It suggests man as machine, tight as a string, where one false move could end it all. Every single step could be the last, and this unique performance plays with that tension to almost superhuman effect.