Review: ★★★★ Natalie Inside Out, Circusfest

Review: ★★★★ Natalie Inside Out, Circusfest

Natalie is an acrobat. But she’s also a superhero. Or she would like to be. Her digital artist sidekick Mark can help with that. As she balances on her favourite handstand table, he projects an armour onto her body, shows her torso stability on the screen behind her, and gives her an enhanced virtual nervous system.

But Natalie is also a story-teller. In between her breath-taking balancing acts, she tells us about her childhood; summers in Hungary eating unhealthy amounts of poppy seed cakes, cutting off heads of Barbie dolls and getting muddy in her backyard. She also takes us on a trip through the comment section of her YouTube channel, and explains the ins and outs of her bodily contortions in front of a slow-motion video of her own act, before performing it live.

The live and the digital form an intriguing marriage in this one-hour show. The calm and down-to-earth Mark, bare-feet behind his table full of cables and computers, immerses the often-upside-down Natalie in a world of colours, shapes and video as she carries out the most astonishing balancing acts, blending with the projection behind or in front of her.

As Natalie dances with digital versions of herself, and Mark puts on a subtle soundtrack, an image appears of a woman who has learned to be proud of who she is and what she can do, despite being little, despite YouTube users calling her chubby, and despite not always having clean feet, or pristine white dresses.

The production manages to stay sober and clean in the midst of all the acrobatics and special effects, and Natalie gives off an authentic and likeable vibe. Although the show feels just a little bit too mosaic at times, and some scenes a tad too long or random, Natalie and Mark have managed to truly blend circus and theatre, and to create a complete, rounded show out of an acrobatic act. Whereas some circus theatre tends to be lacking in narrative or personality, Natalie Inside Out is a performance in its own right, that truly blends exquisite skills with interesting aesthetics and storytelling. A joy to behold.

Merel van ‘t Hooft

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