Controlled Falling Project (4 stars)

This article is from 2009.

Controlled Falling Project

Australian act wows with an elegant mix of physical theatre and acrobatics

The muted colour scheme of the 1930s laboratory instruments cluttering the stage make a charming backdrop for the agile performers in Controlled Falling Project, a theatrical display of acrobatics from Australia’s This Side Up. Speaking few words, the four performers paint a scenario in which a professor conducts experiments in ‘controlled falling’, his three guinea pigs testing their bodies’ limits by effortlessly bouncing off each other and into the sky.

The Udderbelly’s cavernous interior has been an attractive destination for circus-style acts since it was set up in 2006 and This Side Up makes use of the venue’s full dimensions, from its wide floor space to its high ceiling. The performers’ almost dance-like routines are awe-striking but not sensationalist; most focus on balancing across everyday objects – including a particularly impressive chair sequence – and there is one act where a huge metal ring is spun to surprisingly lyrical effect.

Moments of their vigorous, physical show are dark too. The professor uses small figurines of the muscular performers to instruct their movements, bestowing upon the action an element of underhand manipulation that subtly asks us how far we should really go to examine the boundaries of human capability. The three acrobats here, however, are well-versed in their art; when it looks like they might suffer an unexpected fall, a few audience members shriek in fright before they expertly land on their feet and calm any such fears.

Despite these triumphs, the narrative gimmick is loose and the abrupt ending feels like something of an anti-climax after the heady heights the performers reach in the preceding hour. But overall, this is a mesmerising, family-friendly performance that showcases astonishing feats, without being overly-flashy.

Udderbelly’s Pasture, 0844 545 8252, until 31 Aug, 3.50pm, £11.50–£14.50 (£10–£12.50).

Controlled Falling Project

  • 4 stars

Graceful, bold and gravity defying circus, this thrilling physical experiment has mesmerised international audiences. A breathtaking balance of impulsive energy and systematic action, set in a vibrant laboratory of curious machines, live percussion and acrobatic impossibilities.

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