Whether it’s because Hollywood has force-fed us with them for decades, or simply because the concerns of teenage life are pretty universal across most of the Western world, we’re all pretty familiar with the iconography of US High School movies. That, arguably, is why it makes a sensible choice of narrative theme for Los Angeles-based “acrobatic theatre” company, Short Round Productions, whose new show Filament brings real energy to some traditional circus iconography.
Filament's imbued with genuine drama.
Filament’s cast may not be doing anything technically innovative, but they certainly deliver with a great deal of flair, skill and enthusiasm. More importantly, Filament is imbued with genuine drama. A notable example being how Bekah Burke expresses her character’s genuine heartbreak at a failed romance in her aerial hoop routine. In contrast, contortionist Allison Schieler gives a wonderfully comedic performance as the quiet “mousy” girl who slowly reveals greater depths. Significantly, Mark Keahi Stewart, whose main skills on display are hand balancing and acrobatics, gives us the “jock” who realises he’s gay and in love with the allegedly physically inept “comedy relief”.
Filament – presumably titled after the backdrop of bright lights from which the cast emerge and disappear – powers along strongly with barely a pause, its narrative plots slowly building within and between the moments when each individual performer get their chance to shine. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Oscar Kaufmann, playing the two-timing “jock” ultimately undone (and tied up) by his spurned girlfriends. An expert in the unusual Cyr Wheel (a massive single aluminium hoop within which he performs while rolling and spinning it around the performance area), you almost feel sorry that his character still gets their comeuppance (Almost!).
There’s only one small complaint to be made about this production, especially when seen within the context of a traditional circus tent; Thanks to the positioning of the bank of massive lights, it’s clear that Filament is intrinsically designed to be viewed primarily from one direction rather than in the round. While you don’t lose that much when viewing from either “side”, it’s nevertheless enough of a consideration to be aware of where you sit.