Fringe favourites Ockham’s Razor (winners of a Total Theatre Award with Tipping Point) are back at the beautiful St Stephen’s Church with new show This Time. And what a joy it is! It’s a very different piece to their earlier work. For a start, there’s a fair amount of text – spoken live, and pre-recorded – which is interweaved skilfully with the physical work on floor and equipment.
The ensemble of four comprises company founders/co-directors Alex Harvey and Charlotte Mooney alongside 13-year-old Faith Fahey and 60-year-old Lee Carter. Together, they present an intelligent, sensitive and heartwarming exploration of cross-generational relationships. Stories told verbally include Alex’s trip to Canada with a beloved grandpa (once a daredevil who gave him permission to be wild, now battling dementia); Charlotte’s brutally honest depiction of the daily battles with her headstrong toddler; and Lee’s experience of becoming pregnant unexpectedly at the age of 49. The spoken stories might be mostly of struggle, but the physical stories – enacted on a thrilling range of unusual and specially designed swinging and shape-shifting aerial equipment – is of love and support, counterbalancing the concerns expressed verbally.
So many beautiful moments: Two performers of different ages gaze into each other’s eyes through an empty frame, becoming each other’s mirror, beaming them forward and backward in time. Each person’s uniqueness as an individual is acknowledged along with the relationship between them – in some cases, presented as someone speaking to their younger self. In another wonderful scene, the four performers climb around and through each other and over the equipment, ending up spooned together in what seems to be a treetop family bed. There’s a gorgeous aerial doubles act from Alex and Charlotte, in which the real-life and circus relationship are intertwined as they support, swing from, and cradle each other. Faith’s youthful energy and stage presence is a delight – she is a fantastic, flexible flyer and it is so, so great to see such a laid back, skilled, gender-neutral performance from a teenage girl. Lee is a wonderful addition to the ensemble, fluid, physically graceful and expressive – and her duet with Alex is fantastic, two bodies of different ages / different genders moving together harmoniously, taking turns in holding and carrying the other. Its suggestion of mother-son relationship is particularly poignant in light of Lee’s own personal story.
Every element of the show – circus equipment, stage and costume design, music, lighting – has been thought through carefully and works brilliantly. An impressive team has worked on the show with the directors and performers – including musical maestro Max Reinhardt (yes, he of Radio 3 Late Junction fame), and costume maker Tina Bicat (see her article about her involvement with the company, here). The scenography works perfectly: a dark mirrored floor and back wall gives multiple reflections of each person (shadows of their former/later selves?), and feels like the perfect setting for the shiny silver aerial equipment (the company is as innovative as ever in their creation of new playgrounds for their performers!)
I have some reservations about some sections of text. I love everything in the piece that is about parenthood and inter-generational relationship, but there are slightly too many stories, overbalancing the piece a little, and the ones about schooldays and teenage experience could be cut, as they take the piece beyond the core themes of family love and support across the generations.
It is early days for the show, and it will only grow and grow. But even in its opening week, the piece feels full and rich. This Time really takes its time – and the gentleness, care and commitment in the making is there for all to see. A heart-warming and soul-nurturing circus theatre show.