For me, Fringe is - among many other things - a wonderful chance to be surprised. It is a space for anyone to try something new, something daring, something different, and just see what happens. Agathe Bisserier and Adrien Malette-Chénier’s circus is a delightful example of this, and the result is charming.
The two performers move with such elegance, such effortless grace, that every motion feels fluid; almost sensual. Their acrobatics are phenomenal feats of strength and flexibility, and they clamber over and up each other as if walking up a staircase, so easy are their movements. Parts of the routine are playful: they make the childhood game of attempting to balance on your stomach on somebody’s feet, as if being an aeroplane, into a stunning display of skill and courage that has the audience gasping with joy.
The overall story of the show, however, is of a more serious nature, as the two explore traditional gender roles, both in society and in circus. They never speak, but the power plays between them are unquestionably clear; this is a masterpiece of rife storytelling in sparse surroundings. A bare stage, Claire Seyller’s masterfully simple lighting, and Simon Leoza’s powerfully moving original score all work well to complement Bisserier and Malette-Chénier’s performance, and allow the narrative to reveal itself without any distractions. The reciprocity of the acrobatics is refreshing; Bisserier begins as the flyer, but before long the roles are reversed and she becomes the base, effortlessly lifting and supporting Malette-Chénier as he takes over the role commonly reserved for female acrobats. A beautiful sequence later in the show sees the two ceaselessly switch back and forth between base and flyer, performing, in most cases, the same move twice, with their roles reversed. When it is relevant (and it rarely is), the size difference between them - Malette-Chénier looks to be almost a foot taller than Bisserier - is acknowledged and embraced in a comedic and endearing way.
And this reciprocal sequence increases in pace until suddenly, seamlessly, they are dancing, gliding, flying across the stage, supporting and lifting each other equally in a bewitching spiral. This is the true crescendo of the show: the moment of harmony, of understanding. The message has been received, the audience understands, the circus is born again, new and exciting.
The poignancy of the show is felt most in this moment, but is slightly lost overall; it feels as though the performance is just a little too long, and could be improved by some tightening of the storytelling in places. There is a repetitiveness, particularly towards the end, that could perhaps be streamlined. Nonetheless, N.Ormes is a wonderful creation, and a joy to watch.
N.Ormes is on at 17:25 at Assembly Roxy until August 27th. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the EdFringe website.