Quintessential 80s movie Sixteen Candles nails the nature of the High School crush when a character proclaims: ‘That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call ’em something else’. Filament, by Los Angeles’ Short Round Productions, takes inspiration from such classic 80’s teen movies to evoke the drama and insecurity of high school lives and loves.
Filament employs familiar stock characters but chooses not to set the production in the past. We’re introduced to the popular kids, the jocks, the outcasts and the nerds, but the action is rooted in the present with the inclusion of smartphones, modern fashion, and an up to date soundtrack.
The show may not embrace an all-out 80’s aesthetic but it does have musical nods to that decade. The first act, where we are introduced to the nervous new kid, uses a piece of music with 80’s-appropriate synth flourishes. Bertan Canbeldek enthusiastically juggles bouncing balls and throws in breakdancing moves to the beat of the song, setting the tone for this show that neatly blends dance, acrobatics and aerial.
There are plenty of recognisable teen movie tropes: the gang of popular kids and the awkward misfit; the attempted makeover of the ‘nerdy’ girl with glasses; the inevitable fall of the cocky jock. Filament therefore treads a line between enforcing tired stereotypes and satisfyingly subverting our expectations. For example, there is a great deal of Legally Blonde inspired ‘bend and snap’ demonstrations from the girls as they try and teach the wonderfully funny (and incredibly bendy) Allison Schieler how to attract her crush. Encouraging the sexualisation of young women, whilst true to the genre they are imitating, feels like a teen movie trope that could use an update.
On the other hand, one of the most beautiful acts in the show comes in an acrobatic dance between Tom Ball and Mark Keahi Stewart as they finally realise and act upon their feelings for one another. It’s a tender, touching moment and one that feels inclusive and relevant.
Despite the difficulty of dabbling in established tropes, Filament delivers a fun hour of entertaining, dramatic circus. The accomplished troupe together evoke the awkward teen years and the thrill of your first crush with great skill and, in defiance of that quote from Sixteen Candles, make the whole thing look easy.