Fauna review at Jackson’s Lane Theatre, London – ‘dynamic, delightful circus’

The Cast of Fauna at Jackson's Lane, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton The Cast of Fauna at Jackson's Lane, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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A charming zoologically-inspired circus show, Fauna never descends into twee anthropomorphism in its exploration of animal movement.

Initially performed at the Glastonbury festival in 2016, it’s the creation of five talented performers who met at the Swedish DOCH circus school.

Their low-key approach to staging allows all manner of strange and sinuous movement to speak for itself, unencumbered by elaborate costume or Attenborough-documentary sets. On a bare stage that contains only a trapeze swing and some balancing canes, this group sometimes moves as one in harmonious formation, a demonstration of swarm intelligence punctuated by the occasional twitch and sniff.

When they disperse, individual specimens come to the fore, like a strutting bird that shimmies, preens and poses on the lookout for a mate. Its pre-coital rituals, carried out with a blank-faced partner, suggest questions of consent, instinct and amorality in the animal kingdom – look no further than the unromantic reality of mallard mating behaviour.

Other ‘red-in-tooth-and-claw’ scenarios play out, like displays of brutish belligerence between males – head-butting skirmishes that end in submissive limb-flailing. Fauna they may be, but their pheromone-soaked battles bear a resemblance to antics in boardrooms and bars around the world, suits and loafers notwithstanding.

Companionate couples also appear – partners Rhiannon and Daniel Cave-Walker excel as a bouncy simian duo, seemingly boneless and weightless as they career through playful tumbles and daring hand-to-hand balances. Scudding across the space, they’re a dynamic delight to watch.

Gripping exploration of animal movement by five virtuosic circus performers