Posted: 09 Feb 2018 11:11 AM PST
Revival for physical theatre hit
At A Stretch, the EdFringe 2017 hit from Edinburgh-based visual theatre company Jordan & Skinner, is being revived for a mini tour, kicking off with a one-day stand at the Assembly Roxy over half term.
The production is aimed at a six years and older audience. Although, Æ’s junior reviewer said, when awarding it a solid five stars rating: “I would recommend it to everyone.” It will play one performance at 3pm on Friday 16 Feb 2018.
Performed without words, the show uses dance, clown, parkour and acrobatics to tell the story of two women who fall in love. Directed by Caitlin Skinner, it stars Melanie Jordan and Emma Anderson.
Melanie Jordan told Æ that as it contains no dialogue to tell its story, the visual language of the show is extremely important. Every moment is carefully placed to convey different moments in the narrative or emotions of the characters.
The set, designed by Alice Wilson, is not like anything you would expect on a stage. It is made of huge steel poles that stick out at jaunty angles, creating what is essentially a climbing frame for the performers to play on.
new ways of performing
Which meant that when she was creating the show Jordan, who is already a clown, actor and aerialist, had to learn new ways of performing – and added pole dancing to her abilities.
“I really wanted to be able to use the set to the fullest and take advantage of every part of the set,” she said. “So early in 2017 I began training in dance pole with the Twirl N Tone Pole Dance Academy in Glasgow. This training taught me how to grip, hang and swing round the poles safely and efficiently.
“It also opened up a language of movement from the art form of pole dance to include in the choreography. I fell in love with pole dance and have kept up the training, it is an amazing feat of fitness, strength and beauty and I am truly addicted! It is also a real celebration of bodies which I find very liberating.”
Jordan and Anderson also trained with Chinese pole specialist and Edinburgh-based performer Phil Hardie who gave them practical tips and training.
“The pole work in the show is our physical theatre version of a combination of dance pole, Chinese pole and parkour with a good helping of our signature silliness,” adds Jordan.
The poles on the set might start out like a crazy playground but then, as the characters develop, they become the city in which they live. And finally they become a frame for creating a web out of lots of bright neon pieces of elastic which loop between the performers, symbolising the connections that form between people as relationships grow.
Lit by Simon Hayes, the neon elastic looks like a Silly String explosion in a future disco – without the glitter ball. Remarkably, every bit of entanglement and link between the two is precisely choreographed.
“Each piece of elastic is strategically placed to build the web which can magically appear and disappear on its own,” reveals Jordan, adding “I can't possibly tell you how it all works (it’s a Jordan & Skinner top secret!) but I can tell you that it took many late nights and much head scratching for the team to figure out how to do it.
“The hardest bit is for me and Emma to remember which bit goes where. All the pieces look the same but if we make a mistake then it really messes everything up. We got into so many tangles in rehearsals!”
“Emma and I have performed so much together now, though, that we have perfected the art of fixing each others elastic mistakes,” she add. “We have telepathic on stage communication down to a T!”
Despite the complications of making and choreographing At A Stretch, Jordan talks of the joy to bringing together many of the art forms shoe loves into the one show.
“Clown, physical theatre, circus and dance all meld together to create what we hope is an innovative and unusual style of performance that tells a meaningful and important story,” she says.
“Often people see Jordan & Skinner work and say ‘I have never seen anything like that before!. Caitlin Skinner and I love to keep pushing ourselves to develop our style of theatre which is dynamic, funny and a bit weird with a feminist heart that sits proudly on the edge of polite conversation.”
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