Review: Betwixt and Between by Helen Elliott-Boult

After meeting Alice Watson and interviewing her about CirqOn the Seam’s new performance (issue #23, Feb 2017 read it here), I was really looking forward to a night of energetic circus performance and a story told through the aerial art they perform – This was Betwixt and Between.

The theatre was the awe inspiring, spired 3 in 1 Horsley Church; it made for a wonderful host, with it’s quaint village surroundings and sweeping drive to the up lit stain glass. The inside was laid out with chairs in a semi circle and mats on the floor at the front – very informal and welcoming. They had a small bar at the back and two trapeze entwined softly in the middle of the performing space, waiting to swing into life.

We waited for a while, then Marthe (Oceane) appeared and started arranging random coats, drinks and hands on chairs around the audience, we all chuckled in bemusement and wondered if we’re allowed to move. She moves like a panther, sleek and full of energy, ready to jump; slightly fearsome.

Then, gently and softly June (Alice) appears, birdlike and sweet, looking in awe at the dangling ropes in the centre of the room, her whole attention entranced by the wondrous and alien contraption, but fearless she pulls and starts to move her body into the ropes, entangling herself with glee and childlike delight. She gets stuck, wound up tight in between the ropes and unable to move out on her own. Helpless she looks around and spies the curiously watching Marthe. And so, they meet and try to help each other, to figure out this structure, while speaking different languages (French and Spanish) and coming from very different backgrounds.

The show flows with exploration of one another and of the contraption, building on working together and on trusting the other in a world of dance and swinging. They swing on the ropes, coil themselves up and down, sit high in the air and dance in and out of each others space, both on and off the ropes.

We navigate together (the audience feels part of the show), through exuberance and strength, then sudden betrayal; the pain of communication and trying to undo a wrong, with humour and reflection, to convey sorrow. It was tender and hopeful, it absolutely reflected the world today and the mistrust of strangers, combined with the need to move forward and discover a new way together. The music was gentle and lively, meek and wild, it lead us through the emotions of the dancers and perfectly matched the story as it unfolded.

Alice and Oceane worked seamlessly together, both strong and agile, making the swinging and lifting look easy and elegant. The choreography was cleverly paced, using a space to convey physical and emotional distance and closeness. The two characters were instantly alive and real with a back-story just waiting to be revealed. The costumes were simple – alike enough to identify with each other, but with subtle detailing to show individuality. Alice wore face paint, which further added to her bird-like otherness, where Oceane was clean faced and present with it.

But what struck me, was that this wasn’t a circus show to entertain for five minutes, not a show to inspire you to dance yourself, or pick up a new hobby – the intent, I think, was to make us question our role in life, in society and in our community. When we meet a new stranger, the dubious interaction, mistrust and judgement of each other, how do we interact with others and why? The ropes - maybe a metaphor for social restrictions and barriers. What happens when we break those barriers, or more, learn to play with them and work together to re-mould that society, that interaction and that new relationship?

Betwixt and Between is a relevant piece of art and it reflects hopes and fears of all. I felt there was more story to tell, and I wanted to know what happened next and how they learned to live together and how their relationship built and how it would evolve. I wanted to know more and it left me thinking and wondering about how we treat each other. It was a visually captivating piece and left us all pondering how we, too, move and wind together in this world.  

CirqOn the Seam will be touring Betwixt and Between, so keep an eye on their facebook page here to see when you can catch their show next...

Helen Elliott-Boult is a fairly new Stroud dweller. She is an art enthusiast, short story dabbler, music and dance admirer and survivor of Media and Art school.