By a Thread is one of the best shows you will see at the Fringe this year. Not only is it so easy to look at, you witness a really strong ensemble at the top of their game performing amazing gravity defying feats.
For me, this show is about the single thread that creates the fabric which binds us together. This is all about an ensemble working in unison to create incredible shapes with their powerful bodies while suspended in space. And this happens seamlessly because One Fell Swoop Circus is so well drilled that they work together to make the soloist or duet look effortless. And the good thing is that everything is deliberately on show, and well thought out. Not only are the support or counterweight team fully visible, much thought has been put into the shapes that they make.
Essentially what we have is seven Physical Theatre performers, one very large rope and two pulleys suspended from the roof of the tent which support the rope. Sounds simple. But these performers use this rope to make you gasp with awe as they climb very high above your head, no safety harness, no safety net, their lives literally hanging by a thread with just trust in the ensemble to support them.
This is a really well choreographed show with a neat thread of an idea running throughout. Just as you are seduced by the aesthetically pleasing shapes that the on-ground and aerial performers create, you are plucked out of this comfort as the show descends into free-form chaotic entropy as the music changes from a soothing legato into what sounds like a staccato chainsaw cello. Yes this is one of the comic interludes, and the comic chaos is really well choreographed, to serve as a contrast between the entropy and the harmony of working as a tightly knit ensemble.
There is even a moment of tenderness as two lovers suspended high above our heads create an athletically powerful moment of aerial romance, again only made possible by the support of others. As One Fell Swoop Circus explain in their programme notes, this show is all about exploring risk and trust while “creating an intimate audience experience around the dangers and joys implicit in engaging with others”.
One Fell Swoop Circus is an ensemble of highly skilled and athletic performers who have got an innate sense of the aesthetics of bodies in space. They also have a genuine presence and warmth that they exude on stage and share with the audience.
There is also so much to like about the off-stage crew that created this well-crafted show. You can appreciate the hours of training and rehearsal that have gone into creating the amazing death-defying stunts, but you can also be really appreciative of the thought that has gone into creating the sustained metaphor for the trust that binds us together by a thread.
If you want your circus and physical theatre to be more than just stunts, if you want your performers to be visually and intellectually engaging, you will find By a Thread a very satisfying experience. There is so much to like about this show. Go see it.
Fringe Review By Bob Becker
For tickets, show dates and times for By A Thread head to Fringe Tix.