Friday, February 05, 2016

Tipping Point (Pontio, Bangor)

If you end up sitting in the front row during a performance of Tipping Point, I guarantee you'll flinch at least once within the first few minutes. That's because Tipping Point is designed to be performed "in the round", with the audience as close to the action as it's safe to be, to enhance the intimacy of the experience.

I was in the second row, but I still ducked when a giant metal pole came careering toward my face. Except, there's never any danger for the audience, as the laws of physics simply prevent it. It's logical that the lower reach of a swinging pole gets shorter the higher it goes, but your eyes are telling you something quite different to your brain!

The audience may be in no danger, but the performers from Ockham's Razor definitely are, and it is a tribute to their professionalism, talent and camaraderie that nothing goes wrong. Because it really could. One slip, one miss, one trip, and someone gets hurt. There's one routine where the performers have to walk through a series of swinging poles (sometimes blindly so). The idea is that they don't get hit and we all clap, but when Nich Galzin walked fearlessly into the maelstrom of metal poles during this performance, he was smacked squarely on the arm. I assume it wasn't meant to happen, and you could easily guess it bloody hurt, but they just carried on, as professionals do.

And there are plenty of other opportunities for things to go wrong, but they don't, because these five performers are in perfect synchrony with one another. The level of trust and cooperation involved with some of the stunts is remarkable, admirable, enviable even. They look into each other's eyes for silent confirmations, and their hard work in rehearsals has paid off. Tipping Point is a masterpiece of acrobatic symbiosis; the relationship between the performers and their props is absolute.

The feats on display involve scaling unsupported poles, leaping between swinging poles, dangling from tipping poles, and even walking along moving poles. The entire show centres on these poles, and while sometimes you might hope for a little more diversity, you can't really bring yourself to be disappointed by the amazing feats playing out before you. My heart was in my mouth numerous times, such as when Telma Pinto slid head-first down a pole toward the ground (and stopped short just in time), or when Emily Nicholl (whose slight frame and wide-eyed innocence hide a powerful determination) hangs precariously from the solid frame of Alex Harvey. Indeed, if you want anybody to hang upside from on a swinging trapeze, it's someone with Alex's reliable muscle!

The five performers each get their time in the sun - or rather, the chalk circle - before coming together at the end for a joint escapade. Maybe the finale could be cranked up a little more, but it would be churlish to suggest that any of the tricks aren't dangerous or impressive enough. It ends quite introspectively, with a swinging pole releasing a steady stream of chalk to form a hypnotic circular design on the floor (lit beautifully by Phil Supple). There's also some gorgeous, Kate Bush-like music throughout by Adem Ilham and the enigmatically named Quinta (aka Katherine Mann).

Despite essentially being a series of circus stunts linked superficially by a circular theme, Tipping Point is an impressive hour of heart-in-mouth acrobatics. The difference between what Ockham's Razor has done and seeing similar tricks in, say, a travelling circus, is that it's intimate, it's up close, you can see and feel the danger they're in. To be able to see the gap of inches between a human body and a tumbling, heavy metal pole adds a thrill to the show, and makes Tipping Point more enjoyable - and more fulfilling - than a grander Big Top production.

The stats
Devised by: Nich Galzin, Alex Harvey, Emily Nicholl, Telma Pinto, Steve Ryan
Directors: Tina Koch, Charlotte Mooney
Performers: Nich Galzin, Alex Harvey, Emily Nicholl, Telma Pinto, Steve Ryan
Performed at Pontio, Bangor, February 4th to 5th, 2016. Performance reviewed: February 4th, 2016

Tipping Point on Ockham's Razor website (retrieved Feb 4 2016)
Trailer for Tipping Point (retrieved Feb 4 2016)

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