With Filament, American acrobat Joseph Pinzon wants to show that circus can work with a narrative, as he celebrates ‘80s movie tropes with his coming-of-age acrobatic theatre.
“I always wanted to see a circus show that had a complete storyline: a beginning, middle and end,” Pinzon says. “I discovered, while creating it, the reason why it hasn’t existed before is because it’s really hard to do,” he laughs.
To create the narrative, Pinzon, who has performed in La Clique and SOAP and for Cirque du Soleil, went back to the future to the world of ‘80s teen films, especially those of John Hughes. The eternal tropes and characters from films such as The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are instantly recognisable to today’s audience, as the ‘80s is back in fashion with television shows such as Stranger Things.
“’80s films are what I grew up with and I relate well to their subject matter,” he says. “Even though they are from the ‘80s, a lot of those movies still have relevancy because they deal with coming of age themes: growing up, discovering who you are, falling in love and getting your heart broken, that doesn’t really change.”
Even though Filament is inspired by the ‘80s, it isn’t set in the ‘80s like the Duffer brothers’ pop culture Netflix hit Stranger Things.
“It’s set in modern times but it does have a throwback feel to it, even with some of the music. It’s not all ‘80s music’ it is current music that sounds like it could be timeless.
“What I love about Stranger Things, the Duffer brothers did such an amazing job of creating a new story that feels like it could have come from that time. That was an amazing feat. What I’m trying to do is similar but not the same. Their’s was an homage to that era; it was set in the ‘80s and did an amazing job with the detailing. Mine is inspired from that time but transports it to the modern day. I want it to be accessible to a wider range of people, not people who grew up with the ‘80s or who have admired it from afar, but people who can have experiences present in ‘80s movies but are still present today. I want it to be nostalgic and fresh simultaneously.”
Another ‘80s reference is the name of Pinzon’s company, Short Round Productions, which is named after the character Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
“When I was younger I always played Short Round when we played Indiana Jones, because I was the Asian one. I wanted to honour that but in a fun way.”
It took Pinzon five years to get Filament off the ground, it premiered in the Czech Republic last year, and the Adelaide Fringe season will be the second time it has been performed. A difficulty of the show is weaving in three different storylines into an acrobatic theatre show featuring eight acrobats who don’t speak.
“There are no words, at all. The story had to be simply told through movement and through circus. Circus actually serves as a medium for the storytelling. They’re not just performing acts, the story continues through their acts, and everything is told through the acrobatic movement.”
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