SUPERFAN’s Nosedive is a contemporary circus show for adults and children about what happens afterwards, about what happens at the end. I kept thinking about children as objects – objects of the stage, of change, of their parents, of themselves.
Ellie Dubois and Pete Lannon’s creation eases us in slowly, as we watch JD Broussé struggle to get up. He wriggles and shifts, writhing on his stomach and arching his shoulders back. It’s as if he doesn’t know how his body works yet, and he’s squirming around in a newfound gravity. He wears what looks like a white space suit. Rachel O’Neill’s costume design stays consistent across the five performers, (the other four emerge later), swapping out the white space suits for blue gymnasts’ clothes at the halfway mark.
O’Neill’s stark white stretched latex set glints back at us, nearly a reflection but not, it’s too opaque. She places us in a realm of no time – it’s too recognisable to be futuristic, and not familiar enough to ground us in anything real. The space is like a white board, with an echo drawn onto it, an outline of life but not life itself. Then, Nikki Rummer and Michelle Ross join Broussé on the empty canvas, and they try to help him. It’s at that moment I realise he’s not trying to get up at all, he’s trying to fly.
What I think I might be watching is the first humans (the last humans?) getting up to dance. O’Neill and Michaella Fee’s wall of eighty par cans light up the stage from the right, a solid mass of warm glowing yellow, then suddenly bright white light. Each light creates a single beam that dissipates across our eyelines, dust fragments caught in the crossover. Dubois and Lannon have created a piece that glows as one – those eighty par cans tell just as much of the story as the bodies on stage. The wall of par cans is a body, so is the stretched white set, so are the two ten year olds thrown across the stage.
What is startling about Albie Gaizley-Gardiner and Lachlan Payne’s presence on stage is that they seem so unfazed, so unconcerned that they are being thrown in the air and mimicking complex dance routines. They are the play, the energy, the joy to the discipline, focus, and consideration of the three adults. This piece is talking about climate change, I think. The few words that are said are about imagined futures, dying trees, dreams unfulfilled. It made me think of Lungs, where the child is a chess piece, an excuse, a reason, and a burden. In Lungs, that child never appears. It is never on stage with that couple. For SUPERFAN, it is impossible to not show you the child. Whole worlds and futures are contained in those tiny bodies just a few feet away from me. A future that the adults standing next to them have already made impossible.
SUPERFAN are masters of inference – the smallest head tilt could be a whole planet spinning out of orbit, and bodies become forests, so eventually words seem small and uncanny – meaningless in their one-dimensionality. Kim Moore’s swelling, beating soundscape felt like an alarm in slow motion. So drawn out you can’t grasp it straight away, and the meaning has been distorted in the time it’s taken to play out. O’Neill’s vast timeless canvas houses generations within it; the time before, now, and after. A boy walks across a man, pressing on him like soil, his hands become stone steps, and his chest a river.
Nosedive is on at Barbican Centre until 16th November. More info and tickets here.