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Ockham’s Razor lift off in Oxford
By Rachel Tandy
What’s the link between scaffolding, circus skills, and a mid-air lovers’ tiff? It might seem improbable, but they’re all going to feature on stage in Oxford this Saturday night.
The show that brings them together is the brainchild of contemporary performance group Ockham’s Razor – three aerial artists who have combined circus, dance and visual theatre to create an entirely different kind of performance. It’s an innovative approach which has already won them a Jeunes Talents Cirque award, as well as a mass of critical acclaim in the national press.
The three short pieces (Every Action, Memento Mori and Arc) that make up the show are visual representations of different themes. Giant props such as a trapeze, a hanging scaffold platform, and an oversized pulley system provide the means for the performers to dance their way through mid-air.
Developing the ideas
So, where exactly do you start choreographing a piece that doesn’t even take place on the ground? The performers tend to begin with the apparatus and experiment to see what works. Arc, for example, was originally centred around a giant box made of scaffolding, but soon morphed into something much more dynamic.
“The box was really dull to look at,” says co-founder Charlotte Mooney. “There was no tension – you couldn’t fall off it, you were always just safe in it. So we started stripping it away until we were left with the suspended floor, which we used for Arc. We thought there was something very interesting about that; it’s potent, because it’s a bit prison-like. When the three of us are on it, we’re very much stuck there, and there’s a lot physically you can do with it.”
Keeping it clear
Now Arc has developed into a dramatic exploration of human relationships, based on the dynamics of the company themselves. It’s just one of a few weighty issues the show addresses (Memento Mori, for example, is about the personification of death.) But the performers are keen to stress that this doesn’t mean they are difficult to watch or understand.
“It’s quite important to us that it’s accessible,” says Charlotte. “If you go and see something, whenever there’s a moment that you’re not quite sure what’s going on, you can become quite easily disengaged from it. So it was quite important to us that the audience always knew where they were. That’s not to say that it shouldn’t have ambiguities or subtleties or depths, or things that you can think about afterwards. But it needs to be set in a structure that you can understand.”
She admits that circus theatre gives the performers a stronger language to work with than a lot of the other visual arts. “If someone’s holding someone’s hand and they’re dangling, you’ve got an instant relationship there that’s very easy to read, and that’s full and potent – something you can draw on.”
The company certainly seems to have hit on a model that holds universal appeal. They have noticed increasing numbers of young people bulking out audiences at recent shows, including a ‘surprising’ proportion of primary school children. Future projects that include a special sensory piece for severely disabled children, to be performed at Manchester Festival next year, can only increase their popularity.
Nevertheless, while their feet may not be literally on the ground, they’re convinced they’ve still got a long way to go. “We’ve found a way of doing it,” says Charlotte. “But I don’t think it’s the only way. There’s more we’ve still got to learn, and we’re still learning. But that’s really exciting.”
last updated: 28/07/2008 at 15:59