360 is a memory entangled in imagination. An existential crisis trapped within a circus. It is outrageous, it is novel, it was special. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Prior to seeing the show for myself all I knew was that 360 was a show in 360. What this translates to is a circular stage with the audience on swivel chairs in the centre. That may be hard to visualise for some of you so I present this:
A drawing of 360 by Carl Bland that I found on the Boosted page.
For some reason I thought that this would mean that the show itself would be a weird performance art sort of thing akin to Babel. But that was a bit unfounded and turned out to be totally wrong.
What it actually was, was a story of family, identity and loss (set in a really cool, not actually too gimmicky way).
The central figure ‘G’s’ family are a bunch of circus performers and he is sick of it. He wants to be a star, a millionaire, independently adored for being him. If I’ll be honest, he’s a bit of an arrogant asshole really (although perhaps it’s a little bit warranted) but it’s something that nearly completely works for him.
360 is the memory of the critical moment when G’s plans finally fall through (and everything that led to that point). On stage you experience G the teenager (Milo Cawthorne), leaving home to strike it big. G the adult (Gareth Reeves) successful, arrogant, a rock star and G in his later years (Bruce Phillips) a little bit wiser, a little bit sad. Each actor is stunning in their role, Reeves and Cawthorne being arrogant to the point of nausea with Phillips redeeming them by being older and wiser (and dressed like he’d make a bloody brilliant Doctor).
They are supported by G’s family, made up of the eclectic father (Andrew Grainger), brother (Adam Gardiner) and sister (Olivia Tennet), oh and a pet seal (Rosalie van Horik) that adds to the mayhem in just the right way. Grainger is perhaps one of my favourite male actors in his age group and as usual he was an absolute delight to watch on stage, while Gardiner and Tennet rounded out the trio beautifully.
Side note: The last thing I saw Tennet in was an AYA production, possibly Cinderella. From memory the tone was quite similar and so there was this bizarre pang of ‘Oh! so that’s what this looks like for grown ups.’ Still so squeaky too.
Technically 360 is quite a feat. Visually it’s both garish and stunning. Garish comes in the form of the circus and more specifically Elizabeth Whiting’s costume design. I should specify that it’s garish because circus performers wear garish costumes as a rule and so it totally worked. Also, adult G sort of dressed like Hook in Once Upon A Time which is really great. The stunning comes in with Jon Verryt’s set and Nik Janiurek’s lighting design. Verryt’s set is slick (as per) and dressed in ethereal drapes which make it a rather lovely light surface. Janiurek’s lighting takes full advantage of this whilst also helping you know where to direct your swivel chair. Speaking of, swivel chairs are great for a watching theatre. GREAT.
Besides those aspects there are all sorts of beautiful and fantastic tricks of the eye – a sparkling detonation cord that winds around the audience, reeds that flicked up transforming the audience into a lake, circus knife throwing and canon tricks. And my absolute favourite moment, when you turn to find the audience of The Civic glittering from behind the drapes. Did I mention you’re seated on the stage? Oops.
At the plays conclusion a beautiful thing happened. The lights came up and no one moved. Instead chairs were turned into clusters, a few tear-stained cheeks could be seen and the audience as a whole gathered to share their experience with those nearest. For a show that was so very silly in some ways, almost children’s theatre in fact, it had worked. It moved people, it told a story, it made you think.
What is life all about? What is most important?
Ben Crowder and Carl Bland – you’ve done a lovely job.
360 runs at The Civic until this Saturday (25th of January) night. The audiences are small so do not delay if you hope to get a ticket (here).
Other tips – don’t take a massive bag and make sure you won’t need to pee or be ill or something as you can’t really leave without stopping the whole show.