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Ockham's Razor, Platform Theatre, London

  • @EmilyJupp

Ockham’s Razor’s aerial performance on the opening night of London International Mime Festival sets out to explore the idea of being lost and visual tales about trust and identity are the happy results.

The audience are led around the stripped-back theatre space, guided only by ropes and gentle prodding from the chorus, to observe the aerial artists work with different purpose-built constructions.

One such construction is an elaborate climbing frame of industrial scaffolding, the other is a tall Perspex rectangle reaching from floor to high ceiling. Perhaps a nod to the “invisible walls” of traditional mime, this box allows performers to climb the clear walls and appear suspended in mid-air.

The energetic performance almost suggests the artists are discovering these objects for the first time. In one scene they joyfully swing, climb and race over the scaffold, offering encouraging smiles to each other, as though they are the Famous Five heading out on a great new adventure.

The lighting is sunny, there’s a gentle breeze and a faint smell of soap  -- ingredients of a carefree childhood.  The scaffold is later turned to form a giant, heavy, metal swing, they run towards it and back, like children chasing waves, both scared and intrigued by its rhythm. In the Perspex box, a man tests the limits of his confinement while a girl climbs on the outer wall, aided by a pole, mimicking his movements, gazing into his eyes and eventually clasping his hand and carefully coaxing him to come out.

The group are at their best when they all work together, then they cease to be separate bodies and become a constantly flowing human mass. On the scaffolding they pass one girl to each other below the frame while they move above, her hands and legs in constant motion, joining and breaking contact with theirs. 

They don’t pretend this is effortless; with the audience this close, every signal, bead of sweat and quivering muscle is palpable, and instead of traditional denial, the performers show a joyful fatigue at the end of the scenes. Like any effort of self-discovery, they seem to say, this involves hard work.

In the final scene, all five performers pile into the box - becoming a suffocating crush of body parts, no longer helping each other, they become an oppressive force. The harp plays hauntingly and the chorus (formed from a community choir) starts up with a pseudo-Gregorian Chant of the David Henry Thoreau quote, “not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves”,  as one performer pushes through, gasping for air and pushing against the walls in order to swim up to the surface and escape them.