In German, a Rabenmutter – raven mother – is one that puts her career above her children. When your career is circus, with the all-consuming training and touring that entails, working out how to fit it around parenting really is a juggling act. Raven, by circus collective Still Hungry, explores how three mothers have achieved an acrobatic balance between the crib and the big top.
Anke van Engelshoven, Lena Ries and Romy Seibt deliver short monologues on the difficulty of being a mother and an artist. They relate the sexism of the industry and the pressures of both their familial and professional roles. They perform feats of strength and contortion, flying on the aerial ropes and bending backwards over designer Daniele Drobny’s domestic tableau. But the form and content never come together.
On the rare occasions that they show, rather than statically tell the audience, the trials of motherhood through their art, what they have to say carries little weight. The strongest routine comes in the form of a literal laundry juggle. Emotional labour and chores are a key component in the drudgery and isolation that can come with motherhood, but here are framed as little more than inconvenience.
There is a rich story to be told in the shift of identity that comes with children, particularly for those whom the body is their artistic medium. Raven never goes beyond the twee and sentimental. Far from being phoenixes of hope, it feels these magnificent flyers have had their wings clipped.