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Caravan of Lies, Tramway, Glasgow

By Mary Brennan

The Herald, 9 February 2001

One look at the set for this piece by Vincent Dance Theatre and you know this is not a circus you would runaway from home to join – not even if home was hell on earth. An overhead confusion of wires flutters with shabby bunting, kitchen chairs, an old tin bath.

There’s so much grot and clutter that it’s hard to make out the hanging trapeze, the little carousel horse – the suitcases that seem packed and ready to go, but dangle just out of reach. And there, at a kitchen table in the show-ring, are the four performers. Mealtime.

And a sudden flurry of activity that forcefully becomes slapstick. Within minutes, the pecking order is established: Stewart Lodge’s clown-cum-ringmaster pulls everyone’s strings, sometimes affecting a heavy-handed bonhomie in his comments (his is primarily a speaking role), but always with a body language plangent with menace.

On the receiving end of his bullying and calculated humiliations are the artistes – Pete Shenton, TC Howard, Aurora Lubos – all feeling clapped out, desperate to quit a show that has gone on too long, yet somehow held back by personal uncertainties. Lubos, with her incredibly agile animalistic scamperings and scrattings, is like an echo of bygone freak shows.

A wild-child whose innocence is leering abused by Lodge, but protected by Howard (the sequence where she “frees” Lubos, putting her in pointe-shoes and transforming her into a ballerina is painfully moving, as is her own compelling solo, where every movement, both on the trapeze and on the stage) conveys the anguish of divided loyalties, among them her feelings for the gentle Shenton.

It’s not often you find such energy, emotions, and interwoven layers of well-structured meaning and imagery, but Charlotte Vincent and her outstanding company really excel in getting under the skin of personal dilemmas that we can all recognise. They make us all feel we are on that tightrope.

Repeated tonight, well worth your attention.