Arts: Senses ablaze in acrobatic love triangle

CIRCUS: QUE-CIR-QUE HIGHBURY FIELDS LONDON

NOTHING QUITE heralds summer like an evening inside a small tent listening to the mesmeric drops of rain on canvas. But just fancy! All that atmospheric fun can be had without resorting to the Glastonbury mudbath. No scrabbling in the dark for lost tent-pegs, and home afterwards to use your own loo. Bliss.

The French circus Que-Cir-Que have pitched up on London's Highbury Fields for their UK debut at the Islington International Festival. Forget the raucous chainsaw-wielding excess of Archaos, or the baroque spectacle of Cirque du Soleil; this is a minimalist operation, offering elegant action with a cast of three.

Their big top is really a small top, enclosing a serene, white space with a central, black wooden stage. Hear every breath, every squeak of rope or twang of elastic; watch every bead of perspiration, every shimmy of muscle in this intimate arena of precision choreography.

A loose narrative charts the antagonistic interdependence of the trio of performers, trapeze artist Emmanuelle Jacqueline, strongman Hyacinth Reisch and clown Jean-Paul Lefeuvre. This is an exercise in human geometry, physical and emotional: a love triangle within a circle. They court each other with sensual displays of skills, toy with acts of mutual sabotage, but know they are bound by an inescapable inter-reliance as they use the others' bodies as support, weight and counterweight to achieve perfect balance.

Lefeuvre, in snug white Y-fronts, is shaven-headed, with an expression like old man Steptoe's. A somewhat demonic incubus, he scuttles up and down the central tent pole, hanging upside down like a fruit-bat or swinging like an orang-utan just out of the strongman's reach. Foxy Jacqueline teases her suitors with sinuous acrobatics, wriggling inside a bodysuit cut to reveal perhaps the sexiest back in show business.

Prancing haughtily on point shoes, she becomes the circus pony, flaming hair tufted into perky feral ears. Then, skimming the floor, she whistles round on the low-flying trapeze, performing all the gymnastics you can't usually appreciate when they are 60ft over your head. Snatches of sleazy jazz from Miles Davis wind round croaky samples of Tom Waits; percussive coughing, drums, ice-crisp Gaelic chanting, mix with flickers of live serenades from Reisch and Jacqueline.

Lefeuvre circles the stage on a white bike, with no pedals or brakes, aimed at an audience member near you, propelling the bike by swimming the air with his arms. A minute later, he's juddering down the tent-pole like a toy woodpecker down a stick.

Finally (and now we know why he's been saving himself), Reisch spins in on a giant black hamster wheel. Like the man in Leonardo's anatomical diagram, the goateed strongman tumbles the wheel through 360 degrees, before wrenching it from a vertical to a horizontal axis like a spun coin. Subtle, sensuous and highly skilful.

Highbury Fields, London N5, until 5 July. 0171-288 6700.

JUDITH PALMER

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape