Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine, Pirates of the Carabina @ The Roundhouse

3rd – 15th April
Pirates of the Carabina, James Williams

Photography by Paul Blakemore

Last night I learnt that you’re never too old for the circus. My audience neighbours at The Roundhouse for this cabaret-gymnastic-acrobatic extravaganza were an older lady on one side and a family with small children on the other, and both parties seemed equally enthralled by the wonders on stage on front of us.

The Pirates of the Carabina have not only an excellent name but also bucketloads of talent, something which was evident right from the opening sequence, during which all performers were on stage and spinning through the air around a sort of giant mechanical maypole. The ease of their acrobatics, the smoothness of the choreography, and the exquisite accompanying live music, all combined to form an impression of absolutely surrealness, like watching sychronised swimming from underwater in a dream.

Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine is supposedly the story of ‘two fated neighbours in the course of a day’s misadventures, as they make some surprising new discoveries about the world – and each other‘, however this is not particularly clear other than at the very beginning and very end of the show. Instead, the show comes across simply as a series of unconnected, surreal, abstract acts with recurring characters (the lonely man and his temperamental cat, the steampunky ethereal dancer, the handsome and aloof businessman, the dreamy girl next door, and the clumsy travelling salesman who just wants to eat his sandwich in peace). Not a single word of dialogue is spoken onstage, but it isn’t needed, and nor really is a plot – the succession of physical feats, slapstick comedy, and stunning audio-visual tableaux are enough to keep the audience totally hooked.

I wish I had photos of my face during the performance to share my reactions with you! The number of times I gasped out loud when performers went spinning or hurtling through the air, or laughed at the silly skits and skillful facial acting, or gave a disbelieving “huh” at some clever or improbable trick… But mostly I was simply staring wide-eyed in wonderment. (And thinking: what, can every performer in this show dance, act, do acrobatics, play an instrument, AND sing?? Not fair!)

What you (and your children! bring them!) can expect from this show:
A hunky trapeze artist
A hilarious tightrope walker (nearly as skinny as his balancing pole!)
A pretty party girl who can glide through the air on ropes but struggles with stairs
A typewriter used for percussion
A roller-skate chase scene slash dance-off
A levitating piano played by a woman with the voice of an angel
A butterfly lady dancing in a hoop
A man who shouldn’t have been able to walk on champagne bottles like that

I also want to give a special shout-out to the small girl in the front row who yelled some very concerned advice at one of the performers: “You shouldn’t eat cat food, stop!!!” She has a point, you know…

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