If you’ve seen Macro, the opening show of the Edinburgh International Festival, but missed The Pulse, or vice versa, then fear not, it’s apparently the same show. Having had the opportunity to see both and wanting no disrespect at Murrayfield Stadium, this incredible human feat is even more impressive on a theatrical stage.
Australian circus company Gravity & Other Myths came to Edinburgh for the first time with ‘A Simple Space’, a little show that wowed audiences with its acrobatic finesse but was stripped down to the bone. Oh, how they have grown. The Pulse couldn’t be more different, with a lavish lighting design that bathes every inch of the massive Playhouse stage, vocal accompaniment from the talented National Youth Choir of Scotland, an original score and nearly 30 acrobats.
The show is, in essence, a tribute to human connection and how we help each other grow. We can only imagine how many hours it takes to develop enough strength and confidence to perform the structural maneuvers this show is full of. The main act, repeated many times, is the creation of multiple human towers with people balancing on top of each other.
Sometimes there are two, often three, and at some point four. Standing still is enough of a feat, but they walk briskly and even run, each time finding ever more ingenious ways to break the structure. Elsewhere, a human staircase, constructed by a sea of bodies and climbed and descended by a female performer, is at once inventive, fun and delicate.
There is no shortage of acrobatic skills in the contemporary circus world, and many of the flips, balances and throws seen here are replicated in other shows. But it is rarely elevated to such levels of beauty and fearlessness, by artists at the top of their game. Kelly Apter
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
The BBC Singers sing with remarkable precision, every vowel and consonant can be heard, the tuning is perfect, but the combination of repertoire and venue did not allow their collective talents to be fully heard yesterday morning.
The Mass for double choir by Swiss composer Frank Martin was the centerpiece of a program of sacred and secular music. Although Queen’s Hall was originally a church, its acoustics are not that of the vast sacred space in which Martin’s score is worth living. In a revamp of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending with a mostly wordless chorus as accompaniment, Laura Samuel’s violin soared exquisitely like the bird in flight, but with a confusing purpose for Paul Drayton’s arrangement, the vocal lines were dull and dreary.
This is not the case in the last two livelier Scandinavian pieces – Toil and Trouble by Cecilie Ore and Slängpolska Efter Byss-Kalle, a traditional Swedish tune arranged for choir by Hans Gardemar, and both conducted by Sofi Jeannin with energy contagious. Shakespeare’s legendary lines of Macbeth as a rapid rhythmic chorus were deftly interspersed with more thoughtful excerpts from his plays, poignantly ending with Hamlet’s last words, “the rest is silence”. Carol Main