flying crows

Pictures: Dan Tucker


Birmingham Hippodrome


“Nobody explores the tension between our inner live and how we make sense of the world around us.”

Innovative, daring and thanks to Covid, two years in the making, Birmingham Hippodrome played host to the Midlands based dance-circus company Motionhouse, as they presented their latest piece Nobody.

For those perhaps unfamiliar with dance-circus, be assured there was not a ringmaster nor clown car in sight. Instead, all the thrills and spectacle of the circus were woven together with some exquisite choreography and interesting staging in order to tell a very real and relevant human story.

So how did they do it? Act 1 opens with a sight all city dwellers will be familiar with, a grey, cloudy cityscape that is projected onto both the back wall and a large three-meter square cube. This cube is a really impressive set piece that later turns into a lightweight climbing frame capable of being moved around the stage as the dancers wish it.

 airborne crows

The performers then appear on stage gradually, but they are certainly not human. No, they are crows. So precise and accurate are the performers’ movements that I believe we would still recognise them as crows even without the striking yet simple black feathered costumes.

Interestingly enough the collective noun for a group of crows is a murder and each head tilt and wing placement as the performers climb and leap from set piece to set piece adds to the sinister feeling that this is the crow’s world and we just live in it.

It soon however becomes clear that the crows are our inner voices. Each performer as well as contributing the choreography, plays two roles – crow and human, and what follows is a series of scenes that explores the complexities of modern life and how we relate to our inner selves and those around us.

There were some beautiful intimate moments of dance between each of the human characters and their crow, that contrasted nicely with the more heart stopping moments of circus acrobatics.

Shannon Kate Platt’s story towards the end of Act 1 was a particular highlight as she twisted and contorted herself  and eventually disappeared, literally into the set. This is a company of performers of an exceptional skill level.

 magic cube

If Act 1 is showing us human struggle, then the second Act aims to offer a glimmer of hope. That we can become stronger if we work together. Whilst an uplifting message I did think it was perhaps not so clear to see the through line between the acts.

Story telling devices used in the first half seemed to be dropped in the second and there were individual story arcs that I would have love to have seen completed in the second act.

The use of projection mapping throughout the piece supported the story well at times but I didn’t feel that it was at all integral and could be a bit of a distraction from the lovely choreography. I would be so interested to see this piece without it.

Nevertheless “Nobody” is a brave, exciting and thoughtful work from Artistic Director and Choreographer Kevin Finnan that highlights a company of wonderfully talented, gravity defying performers who are willing to contort, leap and throw each other around the stage in order to bring a story to life.

Motionhouse will be taking Nobody to Warwick Arts Centre from 27th – 30th April this year.

Janine Henderson


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