Last night I went with W, Cate, and DJM to see Les 7 Doigts de la Main’s “Traces” show at the Peacock Theatre. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect – it had been billed as a circus show but was being handled by a theater (Sadler’s Wells) I normally consider as being about modern dance. And yet it was being recommended to me by someone as a kind of Cirque du Soleil thing. What was it going to be about?
Well, as it turned out, it was kind of a post-apocalyptic acrobatic modern dance piece done to a soundtrack that ranged from industrial to rap, with five 20-ish performers who actually took the time to exhibit some personality on stage rather than just being faceless, interchangeable performers. There was sort of a narrative, but not much – it was mostly a series of various stunts with conversation (and occasionally music) between them. One piece was set up as a reality TV show, but it was mostly a set up for people doing back flips off of a teeter-totter. Far more interesting were the pure motion bits, such as the tumbling routines that opened the show, the runs and flips off of vertical poles that closed out the first act, and the dives, jumps, and flights (practically) through hoops that ended it. I really enjoyed the male/female balancing act in the first act (though it made me think of the much more emotionally engaging Circus Contraption with nostalgia, this despite the high emotion of the performance in question) and the very unusual “man trapped in giant metal hula hoop” thing in the second act, which was completely unique in my memory.
I enjoyed the hard edge of this troupe, with their utterly unshowy costumes and industrial set, but I felt that with the very high quality of acrobatics involved, it could have been so much more. La Clique utterly embraces the “fun cabaret” thing, though the performances are of mixed quality; Circus Contraption creates a wonderful “Edward Gorey Goes to the Carnival” atmosphere that compensates for not having professionally trained acrobats among their numbers (and their costumes are great – willpower overcoming budget, I think). While I liked Les 7 Doigts de la Main’s aesthetic and really appreciate their skills, I hope that the next time they come through they will have thought up a more compelling way to display their talents. Still, it was a good night out, and I would certainly recommend it (as long as you get discount tickets).
(“Traces” continues at the Peacock Theatre through March 14th. This review is for a performance that took place on March 3rd.)