Review: BLOWN (Flying Solo)

Stunning aerial arts dazzled Toronto audiences at the Queer Pride festivities at Buddies in Bad Times

As part of the Queer Pride Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, BLOWN is a sexy circus show complete with mood lighting, daring costumes, and jaw-dropping aerialist performances, all within an enthusiastic, informal atmosphere.

The show is a collection of non-narrative pieces united by the theme of air. Each performance uses a different aerial apparatus, each artist performing once. A short and sweet experience, I was engaged and excited throughout.

Every performer brought their unique sexual expression to their athletic art. Each piece felt honest, and both technically and artistically impressive.

There were two clear standout performances to my guest Lachlan and I. The female rope duo completely astounded me with their fierce showmanship, technical excellence, and straight up brute strength. I was deeply wowed.

The other standout was, quite understandably, the final performer. Without spoiling any surprises, I will tell you this: the suit does not, in this case, make the man, but his height just might.

Between every piece, jangly transition music would hold us over while stagehands worked efficiently in blue-out to secure the next apparatus. The mundane was made magical, however, as even these practical roles were oozing stage presence.

As were all these glorious, fit bodies onstage. Every entrance, exit, and trick setup was in steep supply of showmanship. These performers were on, nonstop, and I was captivated by their every move.

The tricks themselves varied greatly: from silks to poles to ropes and more; the show never let me guess what was next. The music for each piece varied with the apparatuses, and was not only well paired, but independently awesome.

Lighting was kept simple and effective, with performers relying more on costumes and glitter (so much glitter) for that extra layer of elevation. Most of these costumes were glorious, save for the occasional cape-caught-on-face-while-spinning moment.

I was expecting a raunchier show, something I would perhaps be uncomfortable taking my mom to see. It was a tamer exploration overall, which suited me. The most explicit moment was male side splits on a pole in open-crotch fishnets. Everything was neatly bundled, though; this was no peep show.

Not only was this show visually spectacular, but photos were allowed, even encouraged! I almost grabbed my phone and Snapchatted the entire thing, but plenty of audience members had it covered, devilish grins on their mugs.

Plenty of audience members also had drinks, as Buddies’ cash bar lends itself well to the family festival vibe. The show induced much hooting, wooting, whistling, and applause. I’m sure I cried out “oh my gosh” 30 times.

Gripping Lachlan’s hand as vertical drops terrified, cheering as wild tricks were successfully executed, whispering excitedly between each piece—this show, and audience, felt like home, like we were all united in supporting our queer aerialists, and nothing else mattered in that hour. I truly felt the Pride.

At top and tail of the show is a crackly recording of Dorothy’s voice from the Wizard of Oz, a classic rainbow reference. “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” No, Dorothy, indeed we’re not, and it feels so, so good.


BLOWN played on June 15, 2017. For more Queer Pride festivities to come, check out the Buddies in Bad Times webpage.

Photo from BLOWN by Jennifer Rowsom