Sliver Lining & Jacksons Lane: Throwback

What’s she gonna look like with a chimney on her… If you wanna be my lover… Stop right now, thank you very much… It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone… Hey, the Macarena!

What’s your feel-good throwback song? The song that reminds you of the good times? Write it on a piece of paper, make the best paper plane you can, and throw it onto the stage…

And their off! Dancing and tumbling and talking straight out to the audience, Silver Lining take no prisoners in an energetic and exuberant start to their show Throwback. Within five minutes of arriving on stage, bouncing round like a litter over-excited puppies, they have us eating out of their hands. And that’s it for the next hour. I’ve seen a lot of shows where those on stage show us what it’s like to be at the best party of your life – in this one, we feel part of the party from the word go. And they do the fabulous Patrick Swayze lift from Dirty Dancing – on top of a three-person tower! – in the opening sing-along sequence of the show, so even if I hadn’t been completely sold from the start, they’d have had my undying love from that moment on.

Using a format that, in the interest of fairness it needs to be said owes a little something to both Traces by Quebec’s Les 7 Doigts, and UK circus hit Pirates of the Carabina, Throwback is a kind of confessional coming-of-age circus show that intersperses skill-based acts with the sharing of little vignettes of autobiographical material – stories, songs, and more. But actually, do I care if I’ve seen something similar(ish) in format before? Not at all. This troupe of six super-talented young performers (graduates of the National Centre for Circus Arts, aka Circus Space, and nurtured by London’s premier circus venue, Jacksons Lane) make it all their own.

Skills-wise, we have a boy on the trapeze, who I think might be called Tom, who starts his solo slot off very nicely with a neck-hang, eliciting gasps from the girls in the row in front of me. Tom is a sweet soul who seems to have an obsession with horses. In a line-up yes-no game they play out twice in the show, Tom tells us he had a Pony in my Pocket and wanted to be a horse when he grew up. The line-up game is used to tell us what age everyone is (22! 24!), whether they prefer tea or coffee, whether they are single or not, whether they prefer cats or dogs. An Irish girl with an auburn pony-tail and a lovely smile sings the song Smile acapella, a favourite in her family of singing sisters, before going into a very nicely executed hand-balancing act. An energetic break-dancing boy who might be called LJ channels the spirit of Michael Jackson and does a good strong straps act to Come Together. Sam is the dark and moody-looking one who tells a heartbreaking story of his mother getting in to debt to buy her children a piano, who then gets cheers from both the ladies and the gentlemen of the audience when he takes his shirt off for his elegant hand-balancing act. The girl from Berlin in the red dress has tales to tell of her love of traditional German tunes. She is also a great foot juggler, using not only the traditional rola-bola, but an assortment of colourful umbrellas. Number six is the Scottish guy (cue cheers from the audience), a beefy base in an AC/DC T-shirt who confesses to a broken heart brought about by his own infidelity. His frustration gets played out in a Chinese Pole act in which the pole seems to bear the brunt of his frustration.

Inbetween and around the solo acts are lovely little moments of ensemble work. Tom’s trapeze act ends with him sliding down from the trapeze over a human slide. He also gets a moment that needs to be mentioned where he plays air guitar on a hoop…

 Throwback is a show full of upbeat energy, humour and a sound body of circus skills. They may be young, but they have already learnt how to use what they are good at in the service of the show, rather than just performing tricks for the sake of showing off the skill. Great team work, lovely stage presence, plenty of humour, a whole swathe of cute and clever pop culture references.

I had The Time of my Life, thank you very much.


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Dorothy Max Prior

About Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer/director working in theatre, dance, installation and outdoor arts. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She also writes essays and stories, some of which are published and some of which languish in bottom drawers – and she teaches drama, dance and creative non-fiction writing.