Les Sept Planches de la Ruse, Barbican Theatre, London
Monday 19 January 2009
The "sept planches" are the seven pieces of the Chinese game Tangram, a set of geometrical shapes that can be arranged into different patterns. This show uses giant versions of the pieces – big enough for performers to clamber up, around and inside, holding balances or sliding down angles. Shapes unfold with peaceful grace and dashes of comedy.
Showing as part of the London International Mime Festival, Les Sept Planches was created by Aurélian Bory, director of French performance company Compagnie 111. For this work, he has cast actors from the Beijing Opera, who are used to singing, acrobatics and dancing, often simultaneously.
The pieces begin slotted together in a single block. A woman perches on its edge, playing a traditional stringed instrument. Around her, the acrobats start pushing at the blocks, which slide gently into new patterns. Eventually, finding the musician in the way, they slide her along too; with a frantic scrape of the bow as she goes round a corner.
Bory finds plenty of humour in his geometry. When the sliding shapes leave a gap, a performer slides into it and the shapes close over her. A minute later, as the large block breaks up, one of the pieces toddles away by itself. The comedy adds variety to a gentle show and emphasises the human presence.
Upended, the triangles and squares become steep slopes. The acrobats sprint to the top, where their weight overbalances the block, tipping it into a new pose. There's little sound as the blocks slip into place, no jerks as the pattern moves. The blocks can even fall slowly. A man stands on a triangular block as the supporting pieces are pulled from under him. You're waiting for the crash, but it never comes: instead of plummeting, it glides steadily down, perfectly controlled.
In another scene, three women keep singing, in Chinese Opera style, leaning against blocks. As the acrobats move the pieces, the singers slide down to the floor, or are pushed back onto their feet – still singing. Groups chase each other round and round the same block, or manage to climb inside it.
Throughout, Les Sept Planches de la Ruse demands an exact sense of space and balance from its performers. It has some brilliant acrobatic flashes, too: a dancer sprinting up a vertical wall, or cartwheeling off a high surface. Sometimes the acrobats are disconcerted by the way their walls and floors tilt or vanish; more often, they accept the changing landscape with deadpan stoicism.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 2 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Canadian woman suing police who locked her in van with sex offender who then raped her
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Hard line on immigration could cost Tories the election