Performed by: Circa and I Fagiolini
Director: Yaron Lifschitz
Musical Director: Robert Hollingworth
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
As shadows spill across the stone a lone voice sings out, reverberating through the expansive interior, as further voices join there’s the sense of ritual as we are led into the main nave of the Cathedral.
Australian Circus group Circa have joined forced with vocal group I Fagiolini to create a sublime mix of a cappella and acrobatics, exploring the space of our great cathedrals. Renaissance madrigals mix with Zulu chants to provide an uplifting live soundtrack, voices spring from the crowd or soar from on high, singers silhouetted against the great west stained glass window.
The piece begins with floor work, as Circa’s impressive performers demonstrate their impressive balance and contortion skills, but perhaps given the soaring Norman architecture it’s not until they take to the air that the piece really comes alive. A rope is lowered from the vaulted ceiling in the midst of the audience as a performer seems to defy gravity; two silken ribbons later allow another performer to suspend gracefully above our heads. All performed in the most part high above the unforgiving stone floor without a safety mat.
At the other end of the nave our attention is drawn to a figure standing precariously on a 25 foot high ledge in front of the giant stained glass window, before he suddenly leaps to the ground. For those with a fear of heights it’s a frightening concept but the vertical use of the space seems only appropriate in such an impressive setting.
As the piece climaxes, there’s further battles between man and gravity, as two performers counterbalance high in the air on a climbing pole. It’s a suitably upbeat and frenetic ending as the Great West Door is flung open and the audience return, somewhat shell-shocked, into the Norwich night.
Those wanting a clear narrative may be disappointed; Yaron Lifschitz’s direction allows spectators to take away their own response. Is it a battle of good versus evil, Adam and Eve or the general fall of man – there’s enough scope for many interpretations. It is also, despite its ecclesiastical setting, a performance, though spiritual, that doesn’t preach any particular faith or belief.
With each performance tailored slightly to the building there are some compromises; the promenade nature of the performance and stages at each end of the nave not always providing the best viewing conditions. The floor work, while impressive, also seems to sit uncomfortably in the grandeur of the Norman cathedral. When, though, the piece goes aerial it does indeed soar. Musically, spiritually and physically it’s an experience to stir the soul and lift the spirit, regardless of any faith.
Runs at Norwich Catherdral until 28 June then visiting Ely, Glucester and Ripon Cathedrals until July 20th as part of the London 2012 Festival