Brighton Festival – Review: Human by Extraordinary Bodies, at Brighton Dome

Entering the auditorium accompanied by headsets for each audience member (provided by Silent Disco King), promised a new kind of experience for this one off performance of Human from the company Extraordinary Bodies.

This impressive new show last night at Brighton Dome offered an accessible, inclusive and immersive approach to circus. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t previously aware of the work this organisation does, but I am very happy for this to be my introduction to their work!

Extraordinary Bodies is a company of artistic activists. A professional, integrated circus company creating large scale performance. This collaboration between colleagues from Cirque Bijou and Diverse City brings together an array of artists, theatre practitioners, musicians, writers and crew. The show planning features a huge group of creative minds, but has been created by Claire Hodgson, Billy Alwen, and Steven Lake, and written by Hattie Naylor.

Staging this event with a handful of performers, this 70 minute experience, was a lyrical look at the state of being human. Using mixed media, video, live music, trapese and monologue, the strange circumstances we recently found ourselves in were unpicked, alongside big emotional feelings, love and a series of experiences which the company refer to as ‘The Magical Place of Uncertainty’. This will certainly give a new perspective to my regular existential meltdowns, reframing this positively rather than negatively!

On a stage set with a trapeze, circus rope and set of drums, the assembled performers tell stories from their lives, from their childhoods, and from the last 24 months. The character of ‘Circus’ interrupts them: Graziella has fallen on hard times and she is the character who binds the show’s stories together.

Coming from a place of making events fully accessible, Human features differently abled performers including award winning Daryl Beeton. There is dance and film footage (with integrated BSL interpretation and captioning) and experiences drawn from the performers’ actual lives including talking head singer, songwriter and activist John Kelly.

It was an interesting sensation to be in a busy auditorium surrounded by viewers wearing headsets. As the show progressed, live and recorded sounds were played through silent disco headphones. I’m not sure how this impacted on my experience, but it was a very moving and emotional one regardless. This production offers a whole new set of possibilities about what theatre can look like.

The show is a benchmark for the future in terms of excellence in artistic performance, inclusion and pushing the boundaries of possibility. I’m glad to see the Arts Council is funding projects of this kind.

It really was a beautiful, moving piece. The show is touring around the country now, so there are other opportunities to catch it this spring and summer. Watch the trailer here for a taste of last night’s show:

There will be further new shows from this collaboration over the next two years from Autumn 2022 so keep your eyes peeled for more fruitful productions.

‘From first kisses to lockdown days, a cast of disabled and non-disabled performers lay their personal lives on the line in a moving new show, Human’

The Guardian

Human is part of Brighton Festival 2022, running 7 – 29 May

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