Sound barrier is a forty five minute exploration of the whip through a mixture of dance, acrobatics and performance art.
Written and performed by Finnish circus artist Katerina Repponen, the show is part of Brighton Fringe International Season, a series of collaborations between Brighton Fringe and The Finnish Institute in London.
The humble whip holds the impressive title of first human invention to break the sound barrier, yet its rarely been explored in culture beyond the Indiana Jones and Fifty Shades sagas. At the beginning of Sound Barrier the audience is reminded of its majesty and power: “The whip… can slice through human skin. But in the hands of a skilled artist, it can be beautiful.”
A haunting opening of the performer’s silhouette dancing on a paper screen, eventually lashed at and ripped apart, was a powerful introduction to the lithe and lethal object of interest.
A series of slow burning choreographed movements followed, eventually crescendoing to the first deafening ‘whip-crack’ of the night, almost certainly causing half of the audience to spill their drinks. With such early promise, there was palpable disappointment in the room at what followed.
Popping balloons, opening a wine bottle, decapitating flowers – the series of undeniably impressive feats ended up feeling like solemnly ticking off a list of tricks all the while mired in a false air of profundity.
Although it’s perhaps hard to ignore the sexual connotations of the whip, a brief dive into the dominatrix was borderline cringeworthy and something of a betrayal of the premise of the show. S&M aside, attempting to elevate the performance into an artistic metaphorical exploration failed to ignite what could have otherwise been a brilliant spectacle.
Despite Katerina’s dizzying skill, and the whip itself utterly mesmeric as it whooshes and crackles through the air, Sound Barrier suffered from a lack of scale and punch. Perhaps more performers or more razzmatazz and less of the lofty, artsy vibe could electrify the show and help deliver on its promise and potential.