The cast of Switch in rehearsal

Tipping Point. Photo by Mark Dawson

Upper Campfield Market

Switch directed by Charlotte Mooney, Ockham’s Razor with Grania Pickard

Tipping Point directed by Charlotte Mooney and Tina Koch

For the latest performance in Contact’s In The City programme, the setting is the stunning Old Campfield Market. Switch is a brand new circus inspired work developed by young people from North Manchester with support from Ockham’s Razor who also perform their award-winning show Tipping Point.

It is a major creative challenge to work with non-circus trained young people to develop work that has its basis in the challenging and innovative style of Ockham’s Razor. Artistic Director Charlotte Mooney ensures there is a neat developmental flow between the two pieces.

Switch has nine individuals in constant poetic flux as they work with poles. Seemingly herding people like refugees, they connect and disconnect, teasing, tantalising and threatening. The identifiable conflicts reflecting intensely human experiences are always evoked with a playful quality and the light touch so characteristic of Ockham’s Razor. With a soundtrack by Bellatrix this new work has charm and style in abundance.

Tipping Point combines mayhem and mastery to create something breathtaking that evokes palpable terror and jaw-dropping awe. Huge poles swing and swirl at speed around this magical chalked circle as the aerial performers play Russian Roulette with their lives dodging and shape shifting on the ground and in the air. Playful and mercurial these highly skilled performers are incredible to observe. Like an ever moving sculpture of sleek poles and sinuous bodies this is a stunning spectacle of just how good modern, cutting edge circus theatre can be.

At Upper Campfield Market 15-19 August


Skylight Circus Arts

Devised and Directed by Grania Pickard

Brown luggage tags are attached to every seat in the performance space at Skylight Circus Arts in Rochdale. My tag is a handwritten snapshot memory from one of tonight’s performers. The waiting audience are already interacting with each other sharing the little stories on their tags. There is a genuine feeling of community in the space and of every generation being present.

Established in 1989 this circus school focus most of their community work on people with disabilities or educational needs, older people and disengaged young people. Generations is a collaboration between young and old, showcasing the over 55’s Silver Circus Group and the Older Youth Circus Group. It is also an artistic collaboration between Martine Bradford, Artistic Director of Skylight and Grania Pickard of Bristol based Oddly Moving.

The central theme of the journeys we each take in life is beautifully evoked as the performers communicate their hopes and dreams for the future and reminisce on special memories from their pasts. There are some lovely poetic monologues delivered during the performance. All the journeys connect in celebrating that life is for living and that feeling loved and connected to others is essential to well-being.

The performance features a range of circus skills cleverly woven into the narrative and into how the monologues are showcased. A man and woman sit and happily reflect on trips to the Grand Canyon or wing walking on a Tiger Moth bi-plane while swinging on trapeze bars. Young girls share memories of the best place they have ever been to while performing up on silks or ropes. Both evoke the universal magic of the playground in childhood where we chattered to friends and swung as high in the sky as possible. At another moment one girl supports another person on her legs and becoming a human swing boat. Stilt walkers take children up on their feet as they move around as though to guide the first steps of a new generation.

A treasured suitcase reveals juggling balls like gold nuggets to be shared out, while another heavy case dragged by ropes reveals an another aerial performer when opened. All of these are revealed with a nice touch of physical comedy that evokes some classic clowning around while also maintaining the playfulness that does not leave any of us as we leave childhood.

The ebb and flow of luggage as central props neatly serves the sense of movement on the journey of life. There is a lovely scene where all the performers form a human chain stepping in and out of each suitcase as though to experience literally walking in each other’s shoes or lives. The over-riding feeling in this performance is the potency of sharing old and new experiences together as the generations co-operate.

It is fascinating watching the rigging alter on stage or see the tightrope put together as all these actions are carried out by the performers, again reminding the observer of how much skills and knowledge, trust and cooperation goes into a show like this.

Generations is a real gem weaving together young people who may struggle to feel accepted in society or to imagine what aging means to those whose youth is now just a memory with the experiences of an older generation. In placing them together in a creative process it also facilitates older people to reclaim their vigour and curiosity in order to have a fulfilling future. This is a celebration of the journey of life, whether up in the air or on the ground it honours movement. Whether it is the lightness of a child’s dancing steps or the more rolling gait of an arthritic hip it is a joyful reminder that every movement has a beauty of its own and tells a unique story. Travel sweets are handed out to the audience as we leave – a sweet reminder that we are all on a journey. Deftly juggling playful and poignant, this is a show with big ambitions and an even bigger heart.

Performed at Skylight Circus Arts 27/28th April

At The Lowry Aldridge Studio 15th July

Images by Giles Bennett