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These Books Are Made For WalkingThese Books Are Made For Walking is a piece of performance theatre created by Bikes and Rabbits and runs  for two nights only at the cosy Jacksons Lane theatre in Highgate. Mixing circus skills, acrobatics and mime, it has the feel of an old silent movie. Devised and performed by Alice Allart, Fabrice Dominici and Patrice Colet, the show a charming celebration of books and all the things that they can be.

In an old library, precariously balanced ladders, stacks of books, wonky lamps and trailing cables fill the black stage. A hazy atmosphere and musty smell, as well as the heartbeat-like music stimulates all of your senses. A man enters tentatively carrying a pile of books and proceeds to stack them carefully, handling each one with fondness as he places them on the ‘shelves’. He does this wordlessly, looking to the audience and using subtle facial expressions and gestures to convey his feelings. He picks up one book, with a hip-flask hidden inside. The next one is strange, there is a hollow sound as he knocks on the cover. Then books begin to fall, pages flutter to the ground, and a previously unseen woman wakes from her book nest at the top of the structure. Then a guitarist enters from the wings and integrates himself into the scene, climbing the ladder to join the woman.

So begins a playful dance, as the man tries to disrupt or join in with the impromptu guitar lesson that is going on while he does whatever he can think of to try and get them down. The performers explore the set in the same way a child explores a previously forbidden climbing frame in the park for the first time. Mischievously, the man cuts the duct tape holding the ladders together with a pair of garden sheers and the structure becomes a see-saw, adding to the playground feel.

There is a light narrative running through of a library at night where all the usual library rules are forgotten. The quietness is shattered, books are appropriated as puppets, props and costumes, paper planes are thrown and adventure is the order of the day. The music created by Colet plays a big part in the performance. A late night jamming session where a  riff from the song paraphrased in the title is heard. Lamps are played as percussion and books are used to strum the guitar, but later the music morphs into a more surreal, distorted soundscape. The sound and lighting board is brought on stage, blurring the boundaries of performance and the technical aspects of theatre. The lighting design by Christopher McGhee compliments the other elements perfectly. When Allart emerges at the start, a dramatic red spotlight illuminates her in a tongue-in-cheek nod to more serious theatre and unused lighting rigs in the ceiling are seen by lamps that seem to come alive.

Allart and Dominici’s strength and skill is strong, the circus aspects of the show would not work otherwise. Slack rope walking and object balancing is incidental but impressive. The acting ability of all three performers is equally strong, relying almost solely on physical interaction and understanding. These Books Are Made For Walking treats a love of books in an abstract way. The 60 minute performance is akin to discovering a story for the first time, turning a page and into the unknown. Both the transformative nature of fiction and the tactile physicality of books as objects is explored with love and good humour. The show rouses an uneasy internal imbalance within you through building danger and tension, but it is ultimately a tender and entertaining party in a bookish world.

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Reviewed 22/03/2016

By Catherine Duffy

22nd and 23rd March 2016
Jacksons Lane, London N6 5AA


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