Psy, Peacock Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

The characters of Psy, by Canadian circus company The 7 Fingers, are all wrestling with mental disorders. An amnesiac keeps finding and losing his juggling clubs; an addict teeters inside a big metal wheel, trapped by the device he's trying to balance. The circus skills are brilliant, twisted into clever, often funny dramas.

Danica Gagnon-Plamondon plays an agoraphobic, urged onto the flying trapeze. She builds up to jumps and catches. The swooping trapeze work is exhilarating, a lovely image of the dangers and rewards of letting go.

Psy opens with a voiceover discussing the brain, from neurons to disorders. Statistics on illness slide into comments to the audience: how many suffer this condition, how many forget to switch off their mobile phones?

A spotlight lands on a man in the audience, who heads for the stage, where he climbs onto a fixed trapeze. Or floats onto it, since Guillaume Biron's trapeze work is dreamily smooth. He curves through the air, pulled this way and that without strain or apparent effort.

It's an episodic show, with linking group scenes and sketches for each of the 11 performers. The cast switch roles, from psychiatrist to passer-by, but each has a principal identity. Naël Jammal is a nervous man in a bar, unsure how to get into conversation. Each time he approaches someone, they move away, disdainful – and we see that their faces are masked. His social embarrassment is sharply drawn. Jammal gets his own mask, which he wears on top of his head for a virtuoso display of hand balancing. The mask gives him a back-to-front body as he twists through his poses.

I loved Héloïse Bourgeois's insomniac, wrapping herself and her pillow around a tall Chinese pole. As she drops off, she plunges down the pole, falling so fast that the audience gasps. She comes to a dead stop, inches from the floor, still yawning: she can't quite let herself fall asleep.





To 15 May (0844 412 4322)

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