All Genius All Idiot | FESTIVAL FEATURES

CLEVER CLOGS Yasmin Sulaiman travels to Berlin to meet the four performers behind All Genius All Idiot, an intriguing blend of acrobatics, physical theatre and music that’s pushing the world of circus in new directions

F or the next few weeks, Edinburgh’s going to be full of performers complaining about their Fringe reviews. But circus company Svalbard are still sore about one of theirs from early 2016.

‘It’s the i rst thing when you type in All Genius All Idiot on Google,’ says Ben Smith (pictured left), when I meet the group in Berlin in May. ‘It’s like, “this show is shit”.’ The offending review (from The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner) dates back to an early performance at Jackson’s Lane in London, when Ben and his fellow Svalbardians Tom Brand, Santiago Ruiz and John Simon Wiborn had only just started touring their work. And they acknowledge

that, at the time, it needed some tweaking.

‘To be honest, it wasn’t a very good show,’ admits Tom. ‘We didn’t do a very good job. We played it in Jackson’s Lane, it was very small for us. We were not used to small spaces at the time.’

Today, things are quite different. The international quartet they met at circus school in Stockholm, but hail from Britain (Ben), Germany (Tom), Spain (Santi) and Sweden (Simon) have spent the last two years travelling the world with All Genius All Idiot, rei ning and improving after every performance. I meet them in the German capital to chat about the show prior to its Edinburgh run; later that evening, they play to a packed house at the Berliner Festspiele and completely win over the audience with their mash-up of acrobatics, physical theatre, dance and music. It feels almost like a club night. Presented by Aurora Nova (who’ve brought the likes of Trygve Wakenshaw, Counting Sheep and Thomas Monckton to the festival in recent years), All Genius All Idiot is the kind of work the Fringe was born to showcase. An abstract look at love and masculinity, this highly physical performance is just as theatrical and musical as it is acrobatic, and features an original soundtrack composed and performed by Ben though he’s keen to highlight the input of the whole team in its creation. ‘I knew all of these guys have different musical capabilities,’ he says. ‘I know that Simon can play the guitar super nice, then it was like, it would be

really cool if Santi rapped in the show, Tom made a bass guitar . . .

‘For sure, Ben is the musical brain behind the show,’ Tom adds, ‘but we’re also involved in the process.’ And their love of working together, and keenness to incorporate multiple visions, is a big part of what makes All Genius All Idiot interesting not to mention chaotic. Throughout the show, the stage is littered with a mind-boggling array of objects and props,

3–10 Aug 2017 THE LIST FESTIVAL 31

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