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FAÇADE | STAGE REVIEW

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_CAN6812FAÇADE | STAGE REVIEW

4stars

 

Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre, Newport, Fri 10 Oct

Façade, by experimental circus company Crashmat Collective, was not only a dining experience unlike any other I’ve had before (for all the right reasons) but it was also a show that will make think twice the next time I go out for a meal.

When I first heard about Façade, a show that promised to combine teatime with circus skills and acrobatics, all I could imagine was a trapeze performer miss-swinging and accidentally kicking a plate of food right into my face. Thankfully this didn’t happen (though it would have made a great story to tell at parties).

Instead we were ushered into the Studio at The Riverfront theatre in Newport. Spread around the performance space we several round tables and in the middle of the room there were ropes and hoops hanging from the ceiling – well away from potential face kicking.

We were usher to our table by our ‘waiters’ and sat down excitedly. At this point everything felt somewhat surreal and I couldn’t help getting the ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into’ feeling. As soon as the show kicked off, however, I was absorbed.

As each of the tables was introduced to their server (each with a name tag to keep track of who was who, and with an insightful tagline denoting their character) but as they walked away we heard their thoughts as they day dreamed and passed judgment on both each other and us diners.

Pretty quickly we were introduced to all the relationships (father-daughter tensions, unrequited love, and work rivalries) and characters (the ambitious waiter, the ex-serviceman, the one who dreams of running away). The emotions and dreams of these characters would snap away into dance and circus performances and they fitted in seamlessly. I was worries that these pieces would be half-heartedly stitched together with a sloppy plot but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Not only did the circus skills fit in but they actively added to the show as one waiter’s struggle with anger was demonstrated through him climbing and tumbling beautifully on the rope, two rivals fought over domination of the aerial hoop and a saucepot expressed her sexual prowess when moving hula-hoops around her body.

The show also had a great sense of humour by playing with the fantasies and insecurities of its characters, fantasies and insecurities that many of us can relate to. There was awkward and elaborate flirting, 80s romantic flim daydreams and attempts and ‘team bonding’.

Overall the piece was fantastic. The characters were interesting and I found myself excited to hear the next part of their story, the circus skills performances were flawless and the sound (done by Tom Elstob) and lighting (by Adam Cobley) gave it the perfect dramatic tone.

The performances were extremely strong (Laura Moy as Polly and Alice Ellerby as Rose were particularly good), if I was to be overly critical there were one or two small blips in the acting but when you take into account that these people are circus performers (rather than actors) then the outcome was pretty damn good.

Best of all is the piece made me think. Often when you go out and treat yourself to a restaurant dinner you don’t think about the lives of those taking your order and making your food. Your interactions with them often don’t go further than a wine recommendation and it easy to forget they are individuals with complex histories, thoughts and relationships. Next time I eat out I’m certain it will be with this new awareness for the staff.

The food wasn’t half bad either!

words HEATHER ARNOLD

Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Tues 14+Wed 15 Oct / Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Fri 17+Sat 18 Oct / Ffwrnew, Carmarthen, Thurs 30+Fri 31 Oct. Tickets: £25. Info: www.crashmatcollective.com

 

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