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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Arts review: Raven’s mix of acrobatics and storytelling is unique and engaging

still hungry's Raven continues at The Cultch's York Theatre until April 30.

The Berlin-based circus trio of Lena Ries, Romy Seibt, and Anke van Engelshoven’s ability to balance impressive acrobatic skills with heartfelt storytelling in Raven makes for a unique and engaging performance that is both funny and emotional.

The trio blends aerial acrobatics and contortion seamlessly with honest, humorous monologues and comedic scenes depicting parenthood’s mundane yet terrifying realities. From sleep deprivation to never-ending laundry, the pressure of keeping up with other mothers, and the constant scrutiny of judgmental eyes, the trio fearlessly confronts the challenges and absurdities of parenting.

Raven balances impressive acrobatic skills with heartfelt storytelling. Photo by Andy Phillipson.
Raven balances impressive acrobatic skills with heartfelt storytelling. Photo by Andy Phillipson.

From the start, the audience is drawn into the world of the three performers, who juggle their roles as parents with their fears and concerns. The performers explore the complex and often conflicting emotions of parenthood, including love, guilt, and frustration, in an authentic and relatable way. The narrative is punctuated with laugh-out-loud humour, adding a lighthearted touch to the show.

One scene that deeply resonated with me was when Van Engelshoven fearlessly opened up about the things she missed from her life before having kids – such as the freedom to be irresponsible, listen to loud music, and lose entire weekends. In this scene, she rises to the rooftop on aerial straps as the music’s bass thumps in the background and spins herself into a state of pure oblivion. Her emotional vulnerability and stunning acrobatic display left a lasting impact on me.

The acrobatic routines are impressive, ranging from high-flying aerial stunts to contortions. The performers’ physical prowess is awe-inspiring, leaving the audience gasping. The lighting design adds an extra layer of depth to the performance, enhancing emotional impact. The set, which is modest compared to some, is perfect for the story and acrobatics.

While the show does suffer from some pacing issues and underdeveloped themes, the performers’ ability to connect with the audience on an emotional level more than makes up for it. The final scene is a poignant and powerful moment that left the audience, myself included, in tears.

Raven by still hungry is a must-see for anyone looking for a show that will leave them inspired, moved, and entertained. The trio’s impressive acrobatic skills and willingness to tackle difficult and vulnerable themes make for a remarkable theatrical experience.

Raven, co-authored and performed by Anke van Engelshoven, Lena Ries, and Romy Seibt. Co-directed by Rachel Hameleers. A still hungry production. On stage at The Cultch’s York Theatre (639 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until April 30. Visit thecultch.com for tickets and information.

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