Block is one of five circus-inspired events at the Milton Keynes international festival, which celebrates Circus250 (the anniversary of the founding of the world’s first circus by Philip Astley in 1768). The festival also celebrates the diverse ways people react to one another and to their environments. It does this in diverse and interesting ways: For the Birds, for instance, is a moonlit wonder-walk through Linford Manor park (soundscapes, projections, music, mechanical surprises), while Block explores the high energy (and occasional near-brutality) of city life under an afternoon sun in the town’s main shopping centre.
An expression of almost perpetual movement, Block is built on the collaboration of NoFit State Circus and Motionhouse (created and directed by Kevin Finnan; concept and design by Ali Williams). Superhumanly pliant dancer-acrobats connect, disconnect and reconnect as they construct, deconstruct and reconstruct simple and complex patterns and structures using large grey blocks (at a guess, 6ft by 2ft by 2ft). The blocks look to be made of concrete, but no concrete could be lifted, stacked, toppled and thrown around the playing area the way these are. Also frequently lifted, toppled and thrown around the playing area is the only woman (Giorgia Setaro) in the show. Her slight build partially justifies this, but when she’s carried upside-down, screaming around the blocks, now formed into a tower, a Fay Wray-era connection is inescapable. To note is not to condemn. Small changes could diminish – even eradicate – the impression.
Block is a technically tremendously complicated piece of work, in terms of movement and manipulation. On this level, it’s thrilling. The drama of the ideas (about life in the city, its stimulations and challenges) may as yet wobble, but it doesn’t fall down. Clock Block if you can.