Smoke and Mirrors

By Michael Kemp

Review of Smoke and Mirrors by the Ricochet Project at the Corn Exchange, Brighton , (part of the Brighton Festival, 2016)

Photograph copyright The Ricochet Project
Photograph copyright The Ricochet Project

An empty stage, bare, apart from a solitary chair, a swing and a number of suspended ropes. A flickering purple screen relaying fiscal facts and figures. Stock exchange porn, a chattering Dow Jones index, endlessly rising and falling... A sharp stab of sound ~ Erik Satie arranged for electric violin.

Two acrobats (Cohdi Harrell and Laura Stokes) suddenly confront us ~ suspended on an airborne trapeze. A circus of two…

Acrobats hemmed in by routine and rituals of repetition. Strangled by business suits and ties ~ (put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem). By suitcases. By the sad and vacuous uniform of the corporate, the mandatory, the upwardly mobile. The fancy dress of someone else’s ruthless ambition…

Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little…

Charlie Chaplin: “The Great Dictator” 1940

A sudden gesture, a quick and unexpected drop from on high, falling thru’ circus space ~ a collective gasp from the tiered stalls ~ the acrobatic equivalent of a deliberately slashed canvas. Only to hang upside down, business clothes akimbo, by the grace of their ankles…

Soon we are naked.

There is a darkness. There is a bright light ~ a spotlight ~ an interrogation chamber.

It soon becomes evident that this is no ordinary circus act ~ this is the circus of our own dysfunction, our own contemporary malaise. Played out (sometimes against the cascading patterns of early Philip Glass tracks) within a spiritual vacuum of our own devising. We are, lest we forget, the architects of our own misfortune…

(We think too much and feel too little)

As the ropes and acrobats intermingle, come together, fall apart, lie down exhausted; we search for happiness, a foothold in the sky, even a quiet contentment, in a busy and hostile world that often threatens to drown us out ~ a world seemingly constructed of illusion, of (as their title suggests) Smoke and Mirrors…