All Genius All Idiot

Anarchic mash-up of circus and performance art from company Svalbard

★★★
dance review | Read in About 2 minutes
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All Genius All Idiot
Published 12 Aug 2017

Though this piece is listed as circus, the acrobatics of All Genius All Idiot are woven into a more sprawling neon-stained patchwork of music, visual imagery and low-fi experiments.

Ben Smith perches on top of a Chinese pole playing a mandolin, dressed in a fur coat, fishnets and antlers. He rides Santiago Ruiz like a horse, until the latter escapes into a stylish routine on the pole. Tom Brand has a wild-child breathlessness while performing aerial rope, but he also drowns his face in a bowl of water, which he fountains over the front two rows of the crowd when his chest is jumped on to revive him.

It’s not the surrealism that makes the marmite element of this show (though if the performers were to smear one another in marmite it wouldn’t be a surprise). Exploring the line between genius and idiot company Svalbard invokes a combination of avant-garde emblems, slow physical non-sequiturs, and scrapyard stage props that give the piece a performance art feel, and you get the impression that they would like you to think of it in that way – except when one of the cast complains because the audience aren’t clapping enough at the circus stunts. If you haven’t seen anything like it before it could fill you with wonder, but if you have, it might grate after a while.

There are other missteps. White singer Smith sings in Caribbean and African American accents – a vocal form of blackface. For all the gender subversion and anarchy, there’s a glint of privilege to this show too.