There is something about the French-Canadian circus collective Flip Fabrique that feels incredibly modern, a youthful vivacity which belies acts that could otherwise be old-fashioned. Attrape Moi takes place within a roughly-sketched plot following a group of friends sharing a holiday cottage and reminiscing about previous summers, romances and, a bit oddly, the first time one of their number got dreadlocks. A high-spiritedness imbues the performance, feeling like a group of mates getting together to frolic in the manner of some seriously gymnastic puppies. Think the innate cool of skateboarders under the Southbank or the good type of gap-year backpackers who show up at the beach with beers and a slackline.
The narrative premise, is however at best tacked on with spray-mount in that the snapshots of their past are constantly repositioned and occasionally dispensed of entirely. It’s least successful when the company try to ‘tell’ a story, pointlessly flipping through photo albums whilst a stunning aerial straps routine goes on above their heads. There’s no connection between the two happenings, and its emotion feels forced and false.
Instead it works when the sense of a long hot summer, one where delicious sun-soaked boredom is punctuated by playfulness, is interwoven into the acts. This works as well during a trampowall routine – bouncing off the roof and in and out of the windows of their summer ‘house’ chasing a coveted box of cereal, its parkour meets warring-siblings-at breakfast– as it does in a boisterous ice lolly eating competition. Does scarfing down a popsicle in 30 seconds count as a circus trick? Well at least hula hooping never came with the risk of brain freeze. The best of these gamiefied-acts show off the ensemble’s skills through collaboration. Juggling accompanied by beatboxing is original and a sharp, a different way of revealing the complicated rhythms. A fast paced banquine sequence marries the energy of dodgeball with a gymnastic floor routine. Its serious skills performed with absolute irrelevance that gives Flip Fabrique their unique edge in a time when so much circus can feel either po-faced or overly clownish.
Attrape Moi translates as ‘Catch Me’, a title that captures the vulnerability of circus and each member of the troupes’ total reliance of their fellow artists. At the performance I witnessed, some things were not caught – a few hoops and diablos went astray, and the sole female performer took a flying tumble into the audience onto a frankly delighted -looking child. This should, in theory, detract from what you are watching but instead amped up the consciousness of the all too real risk that comes with throwing stuff and human bodies around a stage. The impression of each artist trying to push themselves and each other further and further still in each feat – the mischievousness of daring one another to jump, to fly, to catch me – if you can.
*As a side note – after a good half-a-podcast of trawling the internet, I have been unable to find an up to date cast list for Flip Fabrique. Plus I now have to explain to my husband why my search history is just photos of hot French-Canadian acrobats. I know the Fringe is expensive and we need to cut down on waste but having a few cast and creative info sheets available is helpful. Or please make it easy to find online so I don’t find myself writing sentences like ‘the man with lovely hair did really quite unbelievable things with a diablo’**
**That was Jeremie Arsenault by the way.
Attrape Moi is on until 27 August 2018 at Assembly Main Hall. Click here for more details.