Bikes+Rabbits - These Books Are Made For Walking

Bikes & Rabbits: These Books are Made for Walking

Bikes+Rabbits - These Books Are Made For WalkingAlice Allart, the creative driver behind Bikes and Rabbits, has been handpicked by creative producer Crying Out Loud as a rising star of circus arts, with a penchant for playing with circus and theatricality. Her company is interested in working with character, narrative, and filmic aesthetics in circus, and the show begins with all of these ingredients bubbling at the surface: smoke, shadow, and a set of precariously balanced ladders dominate the stage. Our first performer, Fabrice Dominici, enters and brings immediate likeability as he directly addresses the audience with a glazed eye that’s both knowing and cynical. He begins to balance piles of books on rungs of the ladders and a theme begins to emerge: of empty gestures carried out for seemingly unknowable reasons.

This is a truly curious world we have entered. The stage is filled with books but we never learn what’s inside them; Alice appears in a magical puff of red smoke and we’re unsure if she is a vision, a character from one of the books or flesh and blood; a man in a kilt with an electric guitar climbs up to sit with her simply to accompany her with whimsical riffs. The relationship of the trio is ambiguous – who they are and what they want is never made explicit and this fantastical world proves somewhat too enigmatic for me.

Dominici plays the would-be protagonist – he seems unfulfilled, grasping and frustrated, and the seesawing of the precarious ladders with his only stage companions, uninterested by his presence, elevated above him, presents a visual metaphor that suggests his inability to find concrete validation for his shifting existence. I would have liked to see this theme developed further, I understand his desire to reach Alice on top of the ladder, but I am left unsure as to why he feels it, or who she is in relation to him. The musical accompaniment from kilted Patrice Colet brings humour to our protagonist’s failed attempts to attract attention, and I thoroughly enjoy the live score throughout, regardless of who this character is or what he is doing wearing a kilt on top of a ladder filled with books. His ability to communicate musically gives him an easy and fulfilling stage presence. The dynamic between the remaining characters is where I am left with an appetite for something meatier. In a wordless world, circus can provide an excellent visual language for emotions: frustration, imbalance, longing, and falling, but the language here feels loose and ever changing. There is a short section of slack rope which comes at a point where we have watched the ladders tilt from side to side since the opening moments of the show, it is a little too little and a little too late to transport the audience onto a different trajectory. There are many beautiful pieces of design: ruffs made out of books, tutus feathered with pages, and whole outfits crafted out of book spines, but once again these pieces are used for a moment and then discarded and just as I think we are about to move off in another new direction we come back to a vague place of uncertainty.

Uncertainty can certainly create an interesting and gripping theme for a show and we don’t necessarily need a narrative as a vehicle when you are equipped with the visual language that circus can bring, but here it is me that is left uncertain as to what the show is really exploring. Many bright ideas and experimental moves are made and I see a potential for something poignant and beautiful. Perhaps if the dynamics of characters were made clearer and a greater focus was given to the themes that these balancing circus skills seem apt to articulate, a more cohesive show would emerge. Of course, perhaps Bikes and Rabbits don’t want cohesion, but greater clarity of expression would help the company to realise the great potential suggested in this show.

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About Tara Boland

A London based performer and theatre-maker working mainly in devised theatre and interactive performance, Tara has also worked extensively with children and young people as a workshop facilitator, director and writer and is interested in theatre for the young at heart, immersive theatre and theatre clown. She has performed at numerous venues, including BAC and The Old Vic Tunnels, and is currently training full-time in Lecoq method at the London International School of Performing Arts.