15/09/2023 - 17/09/2023
Director/Producer - Brynne Tasker-Poland
The multi-award winning production Loops returns to the stage for three nights only this September. Loops is a multidisciplinary contemporary circus show that delves into the frustrations and repercussions of experiencing burnout, explored through immersive live sound and breathtaking aerial art. You don’t want to miss this mesmerising and challenging performance piece before it heads across the Tasman.
Loops was first presented at the NZ Fringe Festival at BATS Theatre in 2022 for a sold-out three night season. Created by performance designer Brynne Tasker-Poland, sound designer Benny Jennings, lighting designer Hāmi Hawkins and aerial artists Leanne Jenkins and Fran Muir, the work was the recipient of the NZ Fringe Grand Design Award and the Melbourne Fringe Tour Ready Award. Loops was also nominated for Most Original Production and Sound Designer of the Year at the Wellington Theatre Awards 2022.
Presented at the Hannah Playhouse
15 – 17 September
7:30pm, Sunday 3pm matinee
Sound Designer/live musician - Benny Jennings
Aerial Rope Artist - Frances Muir
Aerial Loop Artist - Leanne Jenkins
Lighting Designer & Operator - Hāmi Hawkins
Circus , Multi-discipline , Theatre ,
Gets into one of those deep places where only art can really touch us
Review by Cordy Black 15th Sep 2023
Loops incorporates several artistic disciplines, coiled together to form a tight emotional core – its central themes involve repetition, organic distortion and the limits of imperfect media – whether that medium is a human body, a performance space in disarray or a degrading magnetic tape.
Since its last outing at BATS Theatre, Loops has moved over the road to Hannah Playhouse where it has room to breathe, building on its last run’s critical success and physically, in a suitably lofty and imposing space. The foyer and stairways are decorated with heavy corde lisse – a classic tool of the circus trade and the main medium that Leanne Jenkins and Fran Muir explore – as well as piles of vintage cassettes, disembowelled in corners, hinting at what’s to come.
Benny Jennings works the sound desk right onstage, with a cunning mix of sonic arts components including a cassette deck and more modern acoustic overlays. The tape loop interactions and distorting collage make me think of Steve Reich in places, and they’re a great vehicle for conveying a sense of mounting stakes and pressure. Jennings’ presence alongside the aerial artists is vital, since his interactions give extra depth and impetus as the unspoken narrative of the show’s choreography starts to come through. He responds with respectful timing to the beats of the corde lisse dance while also driving the performers through their impressive, sometimes gruelling and utterly immersive paces. His contribution makes a massive difference in holding our attention through a show format that is so brutally focused on a single scene. Deft lighting by Hāmi Hawkins coaxes out an emotional arc while not detracting focus from Jenkins and Muir’s double act.
Choreographer Brynne Tasker-Poland is telling a universal story, in that it’s relatable to anyone who has pushed themselves through a challenge only to find exhaustion, not triumph, on the other side. But within that tale of burnout – something deeply relatable for anyone who pursues the arts – she has found room to tease out a little characterisation. Jenkins and Muir tackle their challenges with different blends of sensibility and athleticism, sometimes wallowing or lingering on holding poses, sometimes harnessing adrenaline and moving with purpose. It feels refreshing to compare their personal styles and the different ritualistic elements of their dances.
Frenetic moments are always grounded in a sense of real connection and mutual empathy between the performers, who strive to maintain unity in their timings and whose characters seem to be both craving and offering support at different times. And from a technical standpoint, the performance of frenetic desperation coming across in their acting never compromises on the underlying, impressive technical skill and discipline that the two aerial artists bring to bear for almost a solid hour onstage. The whole experience draws the audience in and evokes a deep empathy.
A fellow audience member found the experience cathartic and almost meditative. The original track underpinning the tape loop is, in fact, reciting a guided relaxation script, so the observation seems appropriate. Perhaps there is something cleansing about bearing witness to a scene of tension and release. For what could be difficult subject matter, Loops is somehow a lightening, or a letting go. It gets into one of those deep places where only art can really touch us.
Wellington could do with more experiences like this.
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