LoopsEnd, manipulate Festival, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Paper Doll Militia
Rain Anya, Sarah Bebe Holmes (devisers and creators), Claire Crook, Paul Holmes (riggers), George Tarbuck (lighting design), Al Seed (director), Ed Littlewood (producer), Ben Exler (motion graphics artist and animator)
Rain Anya, Sarah Bebe Holmes, Claire Crook, Joe Garcia
Running time

Paper Doll Militia’s oxymoronic name perfectly describes the paradox of control and abandon that their performances embody as they gently lift the curtain into burlesque.

In previous years at manipulate, Paper Doll Militia has appeared as part of a Double or Triple Bill meaning that their slot was fairly short. With LoopsEnd, Paper Doll Militia still appears in a Double Bill but this time they are the stars in each section.

LoopsEnd is an overarching title for the three parts of this acrobatic ‘journey’. Its other parts are Unhinged, that had its European première at manipulate in 2014 as part of Scrapyard after having opened in New York in 2012, and Unchained that was performed at manipulate as part of a Triple Bill in 2015.

This conclusion takes the form of Ashes, an exploration of the ephemeral nature of life using dust and rubble, followed by Unhinged XY , a development of work going back a decade in the group’s work and involving the addition of some amazing animation from Ben Exler. There are also two additional performers - Claire Crook and Joe Garcia - joining Rain Anya and Sarah Bebe Holmes.

From the electro pop music that accompanies a solitary, twisted, spotlit rope before the action begins, this UK première of LoopsEnd, finely directed by Al Seed, is backdropped by an array of brilliant sounds and music throughout.

Each narrative, separated by a 20-minute interval, is performed through a different circus medium with Ashes focussing on ropes that are twisted like the chains of a swing recklessly birled for excitement in a playground and Unhinged XY with aerial silks that these artists climb as easily as if they are stepped. Together the performers create apparatus with each medium that allows the expression of trust and reliance that their art requires. Human experiences like anguish, defeat, dependence and vulnerability are exquisitely expressed throughout all done in edgy costumes that give stylish support.

The inclusion of animation is a departure from their usual miniature circus with narrative and involves projections of animated shapes and splodges with smoky silhouettes on to a makeshift and conventional screen that are stunning. The scene that’s part of Unhinged XY where they look to be sailing on a sea of cloth is quite affecting. However, the domestic props feel like gilding the lily. Irrespective of the narrative, it is the astonishing grace and breath-taking bravura of Paper Doll Militia that beguiles.

age recommend 12 + Tuesday 02 February at 7.30pm tour continues till 02 March