Beyond @ Underbelly McEwan Hall (Edinburgh Festival)

Beyond was a breathtaking exploration of the beauty and strength of the human form, without failing to also portray the body’s strange grotesqueness. In a frantic hour of flying chairs, Rubik’s cubes, animal costumes and impersonations, unbelievable contortion and awesome gymnastics, Circa’s contribution to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, playing at Underbelly’s McEwan Hall, did as promised and went well beyond what I believed the body had the capacity to do.

Circa Beyond - courtesy Andy Phillipson 9R9A8618

The piece seemed to be in itself an exercise in challenging expectations. All performers were equals, the women being as perfectly capable of lifting as the men, suggesting that the female’s role on stage is not just to look delicate and beautiful. Similarly, whereas we are accustomed to seeing young performers in physical pieces, Beyond featured an older performer who proved himself to be the strongest member of the cast. Time and time again sequences were executed with not only incredible strength, but also extraordinary control and precision. This truly was a celebration of the potential of the human body and not only on a large scale. A scene in which one of the performers, seemingly impossibly, spun a cigarette rolling paper on his finger like a tiny windmill was oddly moving, as was another sequence where he moved around the space guiding an A4 piece of paper with his hand never letting it touch the ground. This was escalated to epic proportions by the musical accompaniment of Total Eclipse of the Heart. Many of the musical choices were bizarre and yet always seemed to work, guiding the audience through the emotions of the show despite the almost complete absence of words.

Like the musical selections, several scenes were completely bonkers: the whole cast appearing onstage wearing giant fluffy rabbit heads and singing an atrocious rendition of My Way being one such example. This is not a show for those who come to theatre in search of a linear narrative. However, it all just oddly seemed to work, the comedy and surprise making it into a piece that was not only aesthetically pleasing but also emotionally engaging. The only exemption for me was a scene of almost masochism where a performer repeatedly slapped his bare body with giant rubber bands before wrapping them around his face and getting other cast members to pull them taunt in opposite directions transforming his face into a grotesque zombie grimace. Even this though was an obvious attempt to provoke a strong emotional and visceral response and made one member audibly shout ‘Ewww’ for all to hear.

The result was an audience entirely captivated, gasping with astonishment throughout and breaking out spontaneously into cheers and applause every time a performer pulled off a particularly amazing feat. It was not surprising that at the curtain call the show received a standing ovation from almost the whole house. An awe inspiring performance that I would recommend for anyone at the fringe this year. 5/5

Review written by Katie Jackson.

Circa Beyond - courtesy Dylan Evans 2

Beyond is currently showing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival at Underbelly, Bristo Square (Venue 300) until Monday 25th August, for more information on the production, visit here…

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