Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Until Now, Purcell Rooms

Review: Until Now, Purcell Rooms

Published on Culture Wars, 09.02.2010

If girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice, those of UK circus trio mimbre are oversweet and underseasoned. Until Now, a playful taking stock of their relationship over fourteen years, is almost too wholesome to stomach. After a while, I couldn’t shake off the comparison with advertising for pro-biotic yoghurts, in which the demonstration of enjoyment never rings true.

Bascially, everything is a bit well-behaved and goody-goody: a bit shake hands, make up, run along and play nicely. Where the three girls (Silvia Fratelli, Lina Johansson and Emma Norin) briefly fall out, they sit sulking and snarling at one another from across the stage, only to forgive and forget a little later – probably after a gentle tickle and a reluctant smile. There’s nothing more fractious than that; they’ll never scream until hoarse, scratch until scarred or pull out a flick-knife until their demands are met.

Without that as a possibility, it’s very hard to care. You know, deep down, that everything will work itself out. Best friends forever and all that. Sure, their routines are witty, nimble and piquant, but there’s not enough sustenance. While their tumbles and human pyramids, their balancing acts and tessellations are impressive in and of themselves – and genuinely contain enough real risk of failure to sustain your attention – they are closer to delicately crafted canapés than a hearty meal.

But perhaps I’m demanding too much. After all, sepia-toned niceties onstage are my syrup of Ipecac. (What are little boys made of if not nips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails?) What Until Now does, it does relatively well and it is not without a certain charm, though the company occasionally veer towards cloying, as when serving tea to an eager audience of gannets. Where it really benefits from this softness is in the absence of bravado. The more astonishing moments are heralded by sly glances rather than cymbal crashes.

As a playing ensemble, mimbre are delightfully well-knit. The impish Fratelli is perfectly countered with the rooted staunchness of Norin, who also makes for a sweetly underplayed clown. Alongside them is the meditative presence of Johansson, whose sheer stillness instils grace into gangly limbs.

However, for all that the three-pronged signpost warns of an impending schism, Until Now will only ever end amicably. While their time together might be precious, it remains of little value to those of us looking in from the outside.

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