Constellations presented by PaperDolls in the Absolut Fringe Festival
Running from 13 – 22 September
Queuing outside D-Light Studios, for PaperDolls’ Constellations in the Absolut Fringe, I don’t even have to close my eyes to pretend that I am in Berlin and not in Fairview. There are a lot of punks outside this warehouse-cum-arts space, which is consoling proof that neither the art forms of theatre nor punk are dead. It feels like this crowd is waiting for a gig to start. In a way they are. PaperDoll’s Constellations is darkly accompanied by the Noisecore band WolfBait. PaperDolls are a company, highly praised for their viscerally choreographed aerial feats, which first took flight in last year’s Absolut Fringe in their namesake debut.
The audience is lead into the space, five at a time, up a steep corrugated ramp. In the warehouse, the light is dim and we are assigned burlap sacks to sit on. We are warned that the placement of our burlap sack is important as the performers could be flying just above our heads. This safety warning lends a sense of excitement for the unexpected. Looking up, there are ropes and trapezes enticingly slung from industrial beams. The performers crouch, nested in the centre of the room. Occasionally they ruffle their shoulders and roll their necks in birdlike movements, offering predictions of their flight to come.
At first, two of the performers display achingly grounded acrobatics, which create a beautifully slow ascent towards the first aerial element of the performance. At the start of the piece, flight is not found easily. After all, many of the performers are bound in ropes. Abandoning the ground, eventually the performers fully inhabit the entire space, swinging above our burlap sacks. Wrists still tethered in rope, their flight is not joyous but seemingly an expression of some confined angst.
The piece flings itself into a second room. The performance in the first room, establishes PaperDolls’ undeniable acrobatic skill, but in the second room they create a truly dynamic, sinuously powerful performance. The starkly beautiful final tableau offers a brutally vivacious climax. It turns out, thanks to PaperDolls, that aerial work, along with punk and theatre, is far from dead.