Review: Tipping Point

Sriya Varadharajan 15 May 2016

Aerial theatre company, Ockham's Razor, bring the athleticism of circus and the liveliness of visual theatre to the Corn Exchange this weekend. And if you are on the hunt for a revision break that offers the pure escapism of spectacle, then look no further.

Set in the round, Tipping Point opens to an empty, black floorspace in the centre of the venue; so soon to be site of many of our exams, the five performers slowly emerge together and create the chalk circle which forms the stage. Enclosed within it, white metal poles are dropped from the rigging and form the sole props with which whole landscapes of acrobatic snapshots are conjured, broken and remade.

Demonstrating impressive aerial tricks and streamlined choreography, the following seventy minutes are intense. The performers present us with breathtaking moments of gymnastic, aerial prowess, suspended carefully alongside more playful passages. Poles are slowly let down, balanced on fingertips, hung from the rigging, jumped between, climbed on, swung from and slid down; they become climbing frames, forests, totem poles, mid-air seesaws and pendulums. The backdrop we witness is efficient and organised, yet the visual feast offered by the choreography and subtle light work infuses the world of the show with everything from the intimacy of a lovers’ bedroom to the dynamism of a pulsing city. Underscored by a rich soundtrack composed by one time Radiohead collaborators Adem Ilhan & Quinta, the music only adds further light and shade.  

At times, the lack of obvious narrative leaves transitions between awesome and poignant segments of the show feel slightly disconnected; the images at times too abstract to offer much more than pure amazement. Yet this appears to be the point. While the unharnessed performers rarely speak, the scale of the trust we see play out between them is made visible in moments of feigning falling and soft screams of relief. Aerial dexterity is often finished with tight hugs of relief, and a scene where performers cover their eyes whilst another guides them through the jungle of six swinging poles is a painfully human warning about the blind faith we so readily put in those around us. It’s not often that a performance can make a whole room audibly gasp, and by repeating episodes of dangling, suspended, ‘tipping point’ tension, the company produce something that is always tantalising.

The audience leave as one last pole spins itself to stillness, leaking its concentric trail of chalk towards centre stage. This all feels a tad too Inception-melodramatic, yet the astounded audience couldn’t have been more transfixed. Tipping Point is a burst of impossible movements and tricks which – in the best way possible – never quite resolves itself.