Muddy reviews: Flown, at Pavilion Theatre, Worthing
The first thing I thought as I settled down to watch Flown at Worthing’s Pavilion Theatre was ‘how are they going to perform circus stunts in a space that small?’
This excellent show from Pirates of the Carabina (great name!), on until Sunday, is an intimate form of circus – not in a big top but on a stage with the audience on three sides.
It’s a grown-up show children will enjoy, so perfect for secretly treating yourself as well as kids this school holidays. There’s no loud larky dress (most performers are in quite grungy outfits), no projected voices or audience participation and there’s a live band on stage which makes you feel like you’re watching a kind of flashy gig.
The secret of how they fit everything into the compact performance space is that many of the climbing, spinning and swinging stunts are performed with a simple looking pulley counterweighted with another performer, so the action moves mainly up and down rather than from side to side. This also makes it more thrilling; there’s a real sense of almost homemade fun about the stunts.
Two performers doing incredible upside-down aerial moves on the kind of rope you used to have in gym class and another getting artistically tangled in a mass of fabric flowing from a spool (like an acrobatic Andrex puppy with loo roll) were among highlights.
The set-up is a little confusing – were we supposedly watching a rehearsal or an accident-filled performance? It didn’t really matter. There’s a loose theme of things going wrong – crashing ladders, swinging lighting rigs and the like.
Domestic items are drawn into the fun with a standard lamp and ironing board taking flight. A whole sequence with a performer repeatedly landing on an ironing board while her colleague nonchalantly works around her made a fun start to the show.
I took my nephews (six and eight) and wondered how they’d cope with the more understated aspects. There are softly spoken monologues for instance, giving a bit of a backstory to the performers. These are brief however and it turned out the boys did pick up on some of the more subtle jokes, like the tightrope performer whose teacher used to tell him off for swinging on his chair in class. The youngest loved the flying lamp.
The humour isn’t writ large (I enjoyed the tightrope artist’s wry: “I get paid just to walk slowly in a straight line”) but there are nods to more traditional circus clowning, like a tiny toy horse pulling a full size chariot and, yes, someone’s trousers getting yanked down.
It would suit children old enough to be OK with loud rocky music, who can concentrate on the layers of action (there’s often some fun going on behind the foreground performer) and who don’t need in-your-face encouragement to enjoy themselves. And, you definitely don’t need to have kids with you to go.
The music turned out to be worth the ticket price alone. With a drum kit, electric guitar, keyboard, double bass, singer and more, at different times it veered between rock and beautiful wistful, folksy melodies to complement the performance. I’d happily have watched the band play on their own somewhere.
The boys loved the finale, which I won’t give fully away but the flying drum kit made their night. The audience gave a standing ovation.
Youngest nephew gave Flown 10 out of 10, his brother 9 out of 10 “because of the noise.” He didn’t like the occasional crashes – though strangely was totally OK with a performer dangling overhead within touching distance while his aunty cowered in her seat!
Flown is at the Pavilion Theatre Worthing till this Sunday 31 July only. There’s a Fri night performance; a matinee and evening performance on Sat and matinee only on Sun. Tickets are £17.50 for children, £19.50 for adults.
For more information about Worthing’s Summer of Circus, including workshops for adults and children see here.