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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Brighton 2012 arrow Rolling on the Floor Laughing
Rolling on the Floor Laughing
Published on Thursday, 24 May 2012

5 stars

Sallis Benney Theatre (venue website)
6 May, 3:00pm-4:00pm, 7:00pm-8:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.
 2-for-1 tickets for Friends of the Fringe members.

Within the first five minutes of this imaginative modern circus show, I knew it would be one of the highlights of my Fringe.  Bringing acrobatics and dance out of the big top and onto the stage, Rolling On The Floor Laughing combined old-school ropes and trapezes with modern computer animations, all of it built around some distinctly up-to-date themes.  A cute opener, casting the young artists as characters in a Wii video game, set the tone for the evening; its oh-so-familiar sound effects and Mario in-jokes were what first captured my attention, but their real purpose was to highlight the real-life skills of the performers, on show behind the translucent video screen.

The video game proved just one in a series of inspired, iconic concepts, all offering a different perspective on the circus artists’ craft.  A more sombre piece told the story, projected in the background, of a young romance conducted exclusively by text – a relationship which faltered and fizzled, as first love often can.  Melancholy rope work both accompanied and echoed the video, with the two artists tellingly separated on opposite sides of the stage.  It was beautiful in its sadness and the simplicity of its imagery; and like all the tableaux, it felt genuinely inspired by the lives of its teenage stars.

Just as relevant to the younger generation – though pitched in a way which would make sense to everyone – was an extended, high-energy piece on Facebook status updates, filled with the kind of Internet-speak that gave Rolling On The Floor Laughing its name.  As real quotes from real teenagers flashed up in front, the performance transitioned through a range of emotions, from sadness through uncertainty to laughing out loud.  The thumpingly upbeat music got me in the mood for some LOLs of my own, and creative visual tricks added to the sense of unstoppable modernity which underpinned the whole routine.

What I liked most about the choreography, though, was its clever accommodation of the obvious fact that these 14- to 19-year-old artists are still learning their trade.  Yes, I could tell the synchronisation wasn’t perfect, and occasionally I spotted a move which went wrong.  But it simply never mattered; with so much to hold my attention, my thoughts skipped over the few minor wobbles, and the large ensemble supported each other with professionalism and apparent ease.

There was also a real sense of the joy of performing, with a few shamelessly fun-filled pieces punctuating the more serious work.  Believe it or not, the most striking of them involved hopping around in sleeping bags – though it built to a more conventional and genuinely impressive finale.  Even a pause to reset the equipment, a job normally done by silent men in black T-shirts, became a colourful comic interlude thanks to the appearance of a clipboard-toting health and safety inspector.

Rolling On The Floor Laughing might be set in a virtual world, but the whole of real life was there.  Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we’re sad… and, well, sometimes we just have a pillow-fight.  They mixed up the pace with practiced aplomb, presenting stories I really cared about and offering the best possible showcase for these emerging artists’ talent.  If I had a sixth star, I’d give it to them – and I can’t wait to see where their imagination takes them next year.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.