We have a tendency in everyday conversation to use the word “incredible” or “jaw-dropping” to describe something that’s usually just a bit surprising. And if that’s the case, we need to come up with a whole new word to describe the extraordinary talents of Flip FabriQue, whose show Catch Me can be seen this summer in the South Bank’s Underbelly tent. In a show that includes acrobatics, juggling and a – genuinely – unbelievable trampoline-based finale, the Canadian troupe of six left me exhausted, delighted and, by the end, spluttering incoherently in astonishment. (Apologies to anyone who attempted a conversation with me after the show.)
The company’s mission is to promote joy, playfulness and friendship – and it’s fair to say they succeed on all fronts. Catch Me is a perfect blend of individual talent, seamless teamwork and good-natured silliness. On the extremely rare occasion that slip-ups occur, they’re covered up with a cheerful giggle and an instruction that “you didn’t see that!” And that’s not the only time the audience is involved; with the stage just inches from the front row (so close that I ducked a couple of times, though such was the precision of everything else we were undoubtedly in no danger at all), the performers frequently engage with the spectators throughout the show, offering us privileged access to their gang as six old friends reunite for the weekend at the cottage they once shared.
The six performers (Christophe Hamel, Bruno Gagnon, Hugo Ouellet Côté, Jérémie Arsenault, Camila Comin and Yann Leblanc) are good friends as well as colleagues – and that friendship shines through as they engage in popsicle eating contests, stumble blindly around the stage with sleeping bags over their heads and – in one of my personal highlights – juggle giant beach balls to that old classic, Copacabana, all the while chattering amongst themselves in a mix of French and English. On one of the hottest days of the year so far, the show was pure irresistible summer fun (which is not to say it wouldn’t be just as enjoyable in the middle of winter; I’ve no doubt that it would).
Of course this is circus, so naturally there are a few heart-stopping moments, with one in particular drawing startled shrieks from some members of the audience, myself included. And there are some quieter, more nostalgic pieces too, which bring down the heart rate and allow us to admire the stunning talent on show at a more relaxed pace.
Regardless of the seemingly impossible feats being performed on stage, the overwhelming atmosphere of Catch Me is warm, welcoming and very relaxed – yet you know each detail will have been meticulously practised a thousand times, and it’s the performers’ incredible (yes, I said it) skill that enables them to make everything look so easy.
Fun for all the family, Catch Me is a hugely entertaining and truly memorable celebration of friendship, collaboration and fun, and absolutely worth a visit to the South Bank this summer.
Catch Me (Attrape-Moi) is at the Underbelly Festival until 9th July.