Broadly speaking, Ockham’s Razor is a principle that states the simplest answer is often the best. It’s not necessarily the right answer; just the least complicated. Given aerialists seem to have the least simple job in the world, we figured performer Charlotte Mooney could clue us in on who exactly this Ockham fellow is, and why she’s so keen on stealing the poor guy’s razor.
Ockham’s Razor’s aerial theatre show, you can almost imagine this isn’t a performance at all but a Hieronymus Bosch still life. Figures dangling from levitating platforms, trapped in giant wheels lit by freakish light. The striking imagery created by the troupe is so appealing to audiences the world over, that the production is still touring segments first devised more than five years ago.
But Ockham’s Razor don’t just rehash old material. There’s always something new to be unearthed. “We still try to keep it fresh and play out new theatrical possibilities,” says Mooney. “We’ll start with finding what the striking images or movements are that a certain piece of equipment seems to promote. Very often when we start there will be two or three potential stories, but one will become clear and that will propel certain characters. The characters tend to be late in the day, because they’re serving the realities of what movements we have to do, but there’s always something new to find in them.”
It is this equipment – the giant wheel, the upended raft – that sit at the core of Ockham’s Razor. Movement, character and setting emerge from a physical design that takes months to develop and months more to craft into a distinct story. “We’ll have a theme that we’re interested in and very early on we’ll design a piece of equipment we think best reflects that. Then we’ll try all of the movement and choreography possible, trying to find out what the inherent story is to that particular piece of equipment.”
It’s a wonderful notion, and one that Mooney engages in completely. She becomes most animated when explaining the process behind this development. “With the raft,” she says, “it’s about the relationship between three people, which is always an interesting dynamic. You can tease out the rivalries, the difficulties, jealousies and friendships … We found the best way to reflect that was on this raft that was kind of steadily destabilising. You can really only make it stable when you use your weight together. It’s quite a simple metaphor, but when we played around building this metaphorical raft, we found the theme was much broader. It could be on a raft, but it could just as easily be in an office, a boardroom, anywhere.”
Although there is no razor in the show (nor any Ockham, for that matter), the production is not without its share of danger. “We play with danger. It’s definitely in there,” says Mooney. “A lot of the stories come out of that – when you’re holding somebody’s hand as they’re leaning off a precipice. But our danger is always perceived, rather than actual. Our most dangerous moments come in rehearsal, when we’re trying something new. I think most audiences can tell the difference between real danger and perceived danger. Occasionally you’ll see acts that seem to push performers just beyond their limit, and it’s actually not that pleasant to watch. I think the audience picks up on that. Danger is only attractive when it’s very controlled. When it’s flirted with.”
BY ADAM NORRIS