Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Parachutists or On the Art of Falling, Barbican Pit

Review: Parachutists or On the Art of Falling, Barbican Pit

Published on Culture Wars, 27.10.2010

It’s not just gravity that makes us fall. Hearts can have an equal pull, according to this charming but bitty piece for children from Croatia’s Theatre Mala Scena.

At one level, it’s a wordless lecture about the science of flight. In rolled down jumpsuits, Kristina Bajza Marcinko and Tomislav Krstanovic demonstrate the paths that objects take through the air, firing balloons that whirligig as they deflate and paper aeroplanes that soar gracefully towards us. The pair clamber over a cubic frame of scaffolding, perching on its corners or hanging off it. Momentarily, they seem to walk on air, pedalling their feet as if hoping over clouds like lilypads.

Yet, all the time, a game of chase is going on, as a playful friendship develops. The two seem to send each other spinning, at one point quite literally, as Krstanovic follows an arrow chalked on his chest like a dog chasing its tail. But they also offer mutual support, leaning into one another like balanced counterpoints.

The truth is, for all its gentle humour and humanity, Parachutists remains rather ordinary. Even when they hang a vast orange parachute as a swing, they rock only back and forth, smiling sweetly at us and each other. It never takes you anywhere, preferring instead to offer objects and body parts for ticklish examination – never transformation.

In fact, Parachutists starts strong: with a series of like-objects – socks, feathers, inflating balloons – peeking from holes in a blue-sky mural before plummeting or plopping to earth. From there, in spite of a few jovial sequences of bawdy playground clowning, Parachutists never really takes off. It sustains itself and the interest of children for forty minutes, but there’s not the terminal velocity for a long-haul trip.

Photograph: Theatre Mala Scena

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