New creation from Bassline Circus and MHz takes on a future world with eye-popping visuals and high energy music
Set in the year 2120, in a world where biotech companies rule the day, the 'circus-concert' Kid_X centres around Dr Lazarus, a maverick scientist who helms a body upgrade company. The action begins when her brainchild, Kid_X, who she implanted with a bionic heart, falls in love with Gabriella, a famous rooftop acrobat known for her daredevil stunts on social media. Like Romeo and Juliet set in cyberspace, the young lovers struggle to transcend social mores as well as reality itself in order to meet in the flesh.
The narrative seeds of Kid_X were inspired by Mathias Malzieu's The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart, which sets its story in 19th century Edinburgh. However, co-directors Bex Anson and Dav Bernard of Bassline Circus and MHz Scenography – who've made a name for themselves as devisers of large-scale circus and multimedia productions, such as last year's Total Theatre Award winner VOID – quickly recognised its resonance with more contemporary issues when adapting it into Kid_X.
'KID_X aims to be an all-ages show, so the story needs to be clear enough to be engaging for young audiences, teenagers, parents, as well as child-less adults alike,' says Anson. 'We've tried to include themes that could trigger all those different groups' interests, from parenting politics to navigating one's first love; screen time and net etiquette; all of which arcs towards the more sinister duality of the personal vs corporate under the shadow of current data-mining scandals and the future prospect of an extended "better looking" life that's marketed to us by Big Pharma and narcissism-inducing social media platforms.'
Echoing this hyper-stimulation of contemporary life, Kid_X takes place in a stylised universe of eye-popping visuals, live generative drawing and hypnotic shadow play. Rooted at its core, however, is music and dance from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. 'We wanted to retain some of the energy levels that are specific to festival environments,' says Anson. 'Music is therefore the backbone of the show, and Bassline Circus is renowned for championing bass-heavy musical styles including dancehall, garage and drum & bass, which we owe to the diaspora.'
credit: Brian Hartley
Anson and Bernard were therefore particularly keen to bring Eva Lazarus, the acclaimed singer-songwriter, on board as the show's trailblazing doctor. With a genre-spanning style that encompasses reggae, jungle, hip hop, soul and more, Lazarus relished the chance to showcase her extensive skill set, but also defy expectations through her character. 'Representation is so important,' she says, 'and being a black woman cast in this role, where I'm able to flex all parts of myself and my heritage through music – but also not being limited to an exhausted archetype of black womanhood – is satisfying. The music is there because it's to the directors' taste, but I'm given the space to be multi-dimensional and not have the genre push me into a particular character.'
Opposite the ambitious Dr Lazarus are the two lovers Kid_X and Gabriella, played by dancer Malick Bright and circus artist Amanda Attwood. The aesthetic power of such a pairing was undeniable: 'We saw satisfyingly odd parallels of inverted gravities between the disciplines that we wanted to combine in an impossible space reminiscent of MC Escher,' says Anson.
But also setting Attwood's aerodynamic hand-balancing routines against a bone-breaker like Bright allows for a fascinating interplay between traditional disciplines and less orthodox ones like street dance, which Anson hopes will elicit a fresh appreciation for both art forms. 'It's the finely tuned combination between art forms that have organically grown alongside each other which boils down into a fresh and authentic experience that can be enjoyed by all.'
Pulling off such an ambitious project requires a top-notch cast and crew, and thus Anson and Bernard amassed a team that includes reggae and dub artists Mungo's Hi Fi, producers Feral, animators OnceWereFarmers and Lazarus. Each played a key role in bringing the show to its finished product, two years and five residencies down the line. When asked what they hoped audiences would take away from the show, Anson recalled Kid_X's premiere at the Macrobert in early April, which ended with a stage invasion of young dancers and gymnasts, eager to show off their own moves; 'so we know we're hitting the right notes,' says Anson.
For Lazarus, it's the show's messaging around the dangers of social media that she hopes will resonate most. 'It can be really toxic and isolating and I love that we touch on what that world is like,' she says. 'I also hope it inspires our audiences creatively. I think this show is so different and it would be incredible if this sparks something in them to try something new, whether that's dance lessons or listening to more sound system music.'
A 'circus-concert' by Bassline Circus and MHz, featuring music and dance from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. The story follows a maverick biotech scientist in the year 2120, whose brainchild falls in love with a famous rooftop acrobat.