EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: ALL GENIUS ALL IDIOT, Assembly Roxy
Outrageously over the top, All Genius All Idiot celebrates the craziness of life, using expert circus skills to highlight the extremity of human behaviour at its most primal form. Underscored by a harrowing, yet beautiful soundtrack and featuring Chinese pole, aerial rope, hand balance and copious amounts of acrobatics, Svalbard bring their new show to Assembly Roxy.
As the audience enters, an actor improvises a song on a banjo based on the pains of bringing a show to the fringe, whilst balancing five metres above in the air. Another hangs from the ceiling, whilst others interact with the crowd. The performers ask the audience for positive energy and we happily oblige. The room is full of enthusiasm and expectation of something great.
The set is a junkyard of sorts, and all the props used throughout are sourced from the mess. The stage is littered with waste, dirty sheets and a disused shopping trolley that acts as a DJ booth. There are innovative uses of sound: a microphone is placed over a bowl of water, magnifying the volume of the splash, providing a beat for a performer to move to.
There are a lot of comedic moments shared with the audience, and the performers deal with potentially tricky interactions with confidence and professionalism. The audience feels excitement around the possibility of tricks going wrong, but of course they never do.
As well as comedy, the show does well to be occasionally sinister; an actor wearing a suit jacket backwards, with a mask on the back of their head, is a strong visual image. The double-faced man alternates his movements from frantic to still, giving a lovely contrast and making the action intense.
The positive energy requested at the start carries throughout and there is a constant stream of applause. The audience feeds the cast beer, hold onto their clothes and are willing to have a dialogue with the performers, who give as good as they get. A baby giggling at random halfway through provides a moment of corpsing on stage.
The best aspect of the piece is the fact that they're not preoccupied with making their stunts look effortless. They take the time to show the intensity of each movement, proving how physically exhausting it is. The animalistic physical sequences seem impossible, and the audience spends the one-hour show in awe.
It's an expert blend of circus, physical comedy and theatre that will be hard to forget. The quality of talent is surreal and it's refreshing to see a circus show that isn't focused just on the spectacle. The title summarises the play perfectly: it is incredibly idiotic, but certainly genius. It's tribal, sleazy, sensual and raw, and looks dangerous, which is just what we want.
All Genius All Idiot at Assembly Roxy until 27 August
Photo credit: Jakub Jelen