Playing to a packed Assembly Hall audience of all ages, this Canadian/ Quebecois company comes with high level skills – and a fair amount of kit. As in previous work presented in Edinburgh by this company, trampolining (on regular tramps and on a specially made rubber floor) and jumping from height (from an enormous hollow cube structure) feature strongly.
The narrative hook in Blizzard is the story of an seemingly eternal winter – not so much environmental disaster as everyday life in Canada. The ‘serious’ acts are interspersed with clown-ish sections presented as public information bulletins from the ‘Canadian Ministry of Cold, Chilly and Brrrrr’ and the strident voice-over tells us repeatedly that in Canada ‘winter is not a season, it’s a way of life’. Thus, we have a survival guide ‘how to dress for winter’ skit; an energetic snow shovelling number (spades and balls giving us an alternative take on juggling/object manipulation); and a tribute to Canada’s national sport, ice hockey, which morphs from a rollerblade and aerial straps number into a wild Hawaiian hula hoop act (always good to see a man hooping!) An announcement of school closures due to snow gives rise to a joyous acrobatic sequence in which snouds become hoops to leap through, woolly scarves become skipping ropes, and the bouncy rubber floor turns the ensemble into exuberant jumping beans.
Elsewhere, we have more gentle and poetic moments – a gorgeous double on aerial straps, perhaps exploring the whirling and morphing nature of snowflakes (the disembodied voice on the radio has just told us that the first time a snowflake was photographed was in 1934; a fair amount of puffer-jacket clad walking-in-the-wind (or snow, I suppose) sequences; and some great acrobatics and hand-to-hand – including a rise to a triple tower from a line on the floor.
The music is live: we have a treated piano cum keyboard that looks like an old fashioned honky tonk piano in a bar that is wheeled around the space, well integrated into the physical action as acrobatics pose and dance and leap from and around it. The musician (and sometimes other cast members) also plays a miniature guitar, bells, or other small instruments. The integration of the musician, his instrument, and the acrobats is excellent. I’m less taken with the enormous hollow cube, an enormous white-framed structure which starts out with black mesh screen sides, and ends up completely hollow. It is pushed around, jumped from, and eventually forms a frame for the ensemble – but I don’t really understand what it represents in relation to the Blizzard theme, and the Assembly Hall stage (large though it is by Fringe standards) is too small for it.
Good, solid contemporary circus – and a real crowd pleaser, winning the company a standing ovation.