“Could Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum please make their way to passenger zone 21.”
Airealism takes you on a twenty first century journey down the rabbit hole, proverbially and literally. On entering The Pit at The Vault festival you are met with friendly stewardesses who issue you with a boarding pass which reads, “Hello, my name is Alice”. Over the tannoy are repeated messages to different characters from Alice in Wonderland, creating the feel of being in an airport. When the audience is in the space the doors close and you are ushered to the sides of the theatre. The stewardesses perform the safety demonstration then the journey begins. Once down the rabbit hole the Mad Hatter invites us to his tea party where it is always six o’clock and it is always tea time, then a charivari of silk rope, rope and hoop acrobatics. The show closes with a free for all dance then the journey back to reality.
The creation of this show is a singularly fantastic idea. Where Alice fell asleep beneath a tree, the audience, as Alice, is whisked away in an aeroplane to land in a magical and childlike place. The Hatter has the visage of a creature who is perpetually trapped in time and has lost touch with all reality. Visually this never changes throughout the show, making it difficult not to constantly stare at him during the performance, but the actor seems to be lacking somewhat in confidence. It is easy to tell that he has the talent to fill the room yet he chooses to hold back. This could be because of opening night nerves or maybe it is to add to the creepiness of his character. This also applies to the dormouse. English is not the actor’s first language and it is commendable to anyone who tries to perform in a second language but she doesn’t appear to speak from the diaphragm so when she tells her story, which I believe is funny as the front row of the audience laugh, it is impossible to hear her whilst standing behind others and, as this show is standing room only, as a short person this is difficult to avoid.
The acrobats themselves are fantastic; performing in such a small space must be a challenge in itself. The caterpillar changing into a butterfly is a strange and mesmerising striptease making one wonder at which moment he will stop shedding his skin. The Cheshire cat grinned and fawned looking comfortable whilst she curled around her trapeze hoop. Alice’s flamingo flexed her muscles and showed immense strength on the silk ropes whilst the duo, maybe tweedle dee and tweedle dum, snaked around each other pulling, lifting and balancing ten feet off the ground. The highlight though is the Queen of Hearts and her lover; to the sound of Donna Summer they writhe and squirm with a sexuality that is palpable, yet her entrance is not aggressive enough. As the Queen of Hearts, she should strike terror into the souls of all in her company and her, “off with your head” is barely audible.
Airealism is a collective of circus performers who hold down full time jobs whilst throwing their passions into creating and fulfilling dreams. There is a plethora of talent and skills here which is incontrovertible yet with a few more performances, your humble writer thinks, they will be truly great.
by Mark Speed
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