To get to your seat for Loft, you cross the stage, which is set up as a loft apartment - fridge, chairs, a bath. The cast are already onstage, milling around in their underwear.
The 7 Fingers, a Canadian company, are former members of Cirque du Soleil who founded their own troupe in 2002. Loft, the company's trademark show, casts its acrobats, clowns and jugglers as friends sharing the same flat.
The two sides of this show rarely blend. Though avoiding Cirque du Soleil's bombastic artiness, Loft switches between self-contained routines and padding scenes. There's little material about sharing the loft, about friendship.
The best scene comes early, when mistress of ceremonies Gypsy Snider sings "Waiting for the Train". Her colleagues wander over with their furniture to make an improvised train. Chairs become carriages, a cigarette provides smoke. It's vivid and funny, appearing out of nowhere and quickly dissolving.
Another leading Finger, Patrick Leonard, has long clown routines, fighting with a chair or arguing with other performers or the audience. It's all self-consciously wacky, and soon wears thin. Snider, who sweetly teases the audience, is much more relaxed, and therefore funnier.
The acrobatics are much better. Faon Shane does an aerial routine, hanging not from wire or silk but from chains, which swing with much more weight, rattling as they go. It's also easiest to see these scenes. At the Roundhouse, sightlines are variable: this show is better seen from the front than from the sides.
In a remarkable sequence, Samuel Tetreault balances on one hand, winding himself into angles. As he moves from one balancing post to another, they light up under his weight. The rest of the cast keep taking the posts away, leaving him poised on a single pillar.
Snider and Leonard, the two main clowns, are also jugglers. Snider balances a knife on her nose, her knee, manipulating it around herself before using it to slice an apple. Leonard and Sebastien Soldevila have contests with a diabolo, a spool whirled between two sticks. The grand finale has Leonard balanced on Soldevila's shoulders, still whirling the spool. Then he throws himself and the spool into the air, flips a somersault, landing back on Soldevila's shoulders in time to catch the spool again. Loft is best when it sticks to these routines.
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