More than a trace of excitement

Traces

Birmingham Hippodrome

*****

TRACES is hailed a mix between circus and contemporary dance all to an eclectic soundtrack with everything from blues, to hip-hop via indie and euro trance along the way. 

The French-Canadian company les 7 doigts de la main (The 7 fingers) were a big hit at the Edinburgh Festival in 2007 and after sell out seasons in the West End, New York, Paris and Montreal Traces is on its first UK tour with a three night run at the Hippodrome.

With a special half term offer on the Hippodrome website - up to two children half price with every full paying adult - it was nice to an audience with such a wide spectrum of ages.

DIFFERENT STRINGS

Indeed the diverse audience finds favour with the show, which is almost impossible to pigeon-hole; given that it has so many different strings to its bow.

It is rather like watching a great music video which you've never seen before (but know that you’ll love), or your favourite bits from your favourite cult film, which you want to share with everyone but not necessarily tell anyone about. 

There is something bizarrely hypnotic about watching the five men and one woman perform in perfect harmony. They can make an everyday arm chair as impressive as Chinese poles, and every facet of the performance is meticulously planned, yet effortlessly executed. 

Antoine Auger, Antoine Carabinier-Lepine, Jonathan Casaubon, Genevieve Morin, Philip Rosenberg make you want to take up Parkour and erect some Chinese poles in your back garden . . . but their grace and speed are deceptive; only the heaving of their chests show just how hard they work and how far they push themselves. 

It is a strange experience to watch Traces - but strange in a good way. The intimacy of the piece, punctuated by charming humour and contemporary references make for an absorbing 1hr 40mins. 

It is like watching everything that your average English Theatre goer isn't but wants to be - like a puckish, adroit, witty, European fight club.

ANCIENT SKILLS

This modern day circus, with its ancient skills clothed in modern phrasing and philosophy blows every dance show currently swamping the TV channels into the oblivion. Traces is the real deal, make no mistake.

With such a gushing review one might be left to wonder why only four and a half stars and not five. Well the reason is simple enough, I didn't like the end, not just for the slightly clunky and artsy finale but also because it was the end of such a great performance - and I'll dock half a star out of spite just for that! 

If you're in Birmingham and want to see something special, see Traces and if you've got kids then the aforementioned offer provides superb value for a superb show - and you might even look a little bit cool to your kids; just avoid the temptation to do a flag handstand on your car bonnet afterwards. To 17-02-10.

Theo Clarke

A view from the other side . . .

***

IT might have been a warm-up for a casual basketball game as five scruffily dressed characters charged round stage bouncing and passing a ball with a reasonable amount of skill at the start of this unusual show.

But the action is set in a makeshift bunker with the agile young people amusing themselves prior to some impending disaster, and they suddenly explode into a remarkable display of acrobatics that has the audience gasping for breath.

This is the French-Canadian company Les 7 Doigts de la Main who took the Edinburgh Festival by storm in 2007. Easy to see why.

Their props might have been the remnants of a war scene....a battered old piano, broken tailors' dummies, faded skateboards, a couple of steel poles rising high from the stage floor, and a few steel hoops.

But the four men and one woman use them brilliantly, showing amazing agility in climbing the poles and swinging from them, flying backwards and forwards through the hoops. One of the men even spins inside a giant steel hoola-hoop.

The dazzling action is set to a sound track ranging from rock 'n' roll to blues and hip-hop, with images of the five characters at various stages of their lives flashed onto a screen at the rear of the stage.

Paul Marston 

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