Air Play @ Festival Theatre, Adelaide 16/3/2023

The Acrobuffos Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone pay a loving tribute to their origins as street and Fringe performers with their red and yellow samsonite suitcases on stage in their Adelaide Festival 23 performance of Air Play.

They are now major artists who have performed around the world and will have staged their 400th performance of Air Play by the time this review goes to print. Despite their much-deserved success and a technical rider that caters for intricate lighting and electrical fans that create a simulated whirlwind and tornado on stage, they never lose that sense of awe, uncertainty and spontaneity that is an integral part of the street performer’s territory. Like all good street performers, there is no fourth wall for

Bloom and Gelsone as they climb over the chairs in the audience, giving chase to an errant balloon, take sips of wine from those in the front rows and then invite audience members on stage to offer them butterfly catchers to help retrieve balloons caught up in the whirlwind on stage.

Balloons, lightweight fabric, polystyrene packing peanuts and mylar confetti are all caught up in the tornado that is created on stage by the strategically placed electrical fans and the air sculptures created by kinetic artist Daniel Wurtzel. Director West Hyler, who has also worked with Cirque du Soleil cleverly weaves a storyline for Bloom and Gelsone that touches on the complexities of relationships while underscoring the beautiful innocence and awe of childhood. There is the pre-recorded laughter of children as well as the intermittent laughter of children in the audience.

This is a show for the child in all of us – there is the sheer beauty of light weight fabric creating exquisite shapes on stage all set to a glorious soundtrack that moves from the emotionally moving Yann Tiersen’s Point Zero and Olafur Arnalds’ bu ert Jordin through to Vinicio Capossela’s circus crazy Maraja and Fanfare Ciocarlia’s wedding march, Doina Si Cintec.

The soundtrack seems to be a collection of songs that Bloom and Gelsone have collected during their travels around the world. Similarly, one of the highlights in the show uses the Italian designed Climb Inside balloon, that sees the performers fully immersed inside the balloon to create laugh out loud slapstick comedy with obvious references to the status inspired humour of Commedia dell’Arte while Pavarotti sings the aria Nessun dorma, as a background to the mayhem.

There is so much to love about Air Play – there is clever use of kinetic art, balloons and music, but most importantly clever technology without gifted performers is just technology. Bloom and Gelsone, the Acrobuffos have a background in dance and circus and they have a charming and endearing stage presence. They treat the toys that they play with on stage with a child like awe that remind me of the wide eyed innocence of Jacques Tati, while their playful interactions with each other have an ease and comfort that allows the audience to immerse themselves in the sheer wonder of the spectacle that unfolds on stage.

Air Play is for the playful child in all of us. This is a truly beautiful show that allows you to escape into an innocent world of wonderment and awe. This is a show that you need to see, to experience the magic and joy of theatre through the innocent eyes of a child, and to come out with a satisfied smile that says, “that was really, really good.”

Adelaide Festival Review By Bob Becker

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