Is it possible to knit peace? This was the question that prompted the Swedish troupe Cirkus Cirkör’s creation of Knitting Peace.
In this American premiere, director Tilde Björfors used all the aspects of contemporary circus art to attempt an answer by revealing a complex world created predominantly out of recycled yarn.
Framing the stage of the Merriam Theater was a thin black fabric serving as the backdrop for a female performer who was hand knitting a vest downstage. Upon completion, she swathed herself in the product of her efforts before tugging a loose piece of yarn causing it to unravel. This act of pulling loose yarn became a repetitive motif throughout Peace.
Panels of curtains sectioned the performing space, acting as doors where the performers would enter and exit, creating different worlds of yarn induced excitement that would thrill the audience. Aino Ihanainen, Alexander Weibel Weibel, Mikael Kristiansen, Ilona Jäntti, and Tiziana Prota led us through a world of yarn that was governed by musician Olof Gothlin, who was cocooned in a nest hoisted 12 feet above the stage’s floor.
I must confess: I had never been to the circus. But the Swedish troupe delivered everything I imagined it would be, except the performing animals. When Weibel rode a unicycle on meager strands of yarn, he evoked audible gasps from the audience, but what really shifted the show from whimsical to audacious performance art was a scene that simulated a spider trapped in the web-like backdrop of yarn.
Like a rag doll, Prota fought to free herself from her own struggle. Strategically clinging to the yarn, she dangled from cutouts in the makeshift web, creating the illusion of intense danger. As the web shook vigorously, she descended, often times pausing to suspend herself – perhaps to give those in the audience a moment to catch their breath. She danced across the weblike structure, manipulating the yarn chaotically, while never loosing control.
Director Björfors created a landscape that that relied heavily on the space above the stage where the artists spent most of the show’s 90 minutes. While it may be impossible to knit peace, it sure is possible to embrace the concept. As the show ended, coils of yarn rolled out from the stage into the audience, allowing the spectators to support each other as these balls of yarn were transported overhead. The message was clear: We’re all in this together.