Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Circa


Wunderkammer

Canberra Theatre
Season 26 – 28 March 2013
Reviewed by Samara Purnell

 




After being told by Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz that the first twenty minutes of this show was going to be like “fugue” until you stop fighting it and give in, I somewhat nervously Googled what a “fugue” was to see what sort of possible psychiatric condition may befall me in twenty minutes time and downed a specially named “Wunderbar cocktail” in anticipation.

This Queensland based circus was unlike most others where performers specialise in one or two areas and perform just those routines. Here, Freyja Edney opened the show with her impressive hoop skills, and was soon joined by the remaining six members of the ensemble, who presented this demanding show. Many of them were involved for the majority of the performance, itself a feat of stamina, focus and endurance.

However, in a solo act, poignant and tender, with Peter Gabriel’s “Book of Love” playing, Jarred Dewey undressed on trapeze – hanging by his heels at one point. That set the bar pretty high, so to speak. But more than just an excuse to “get his kit off” it encapsulated the vulnerability on display every time the troupe takes to the stage – vulnerability to injury, to scrutiny, to each other and to analysis of his or her body and sexuality. Following Dewey’s dismount, slapstick comedy ensued, when he attempted to regain his clothes from another performer. These acts summarised the variety of the show.

There were many laugh-out-loud moments, including Alice Muntz’s exploration of bubble wrap. And in one of her first scenes, where in the blink of an eye, her clothes appeared to have been nicked, she re-dresses in a most agile manner. Uniform costumes of red and black satin and lace gave the show a slick, appealing look and cabaret “cuteness” meant putting clothes on never looked so good!

There were times though, when acts seemed to default to undressing almost for the sake of it – usually when a lot was happening on stage. One wonders how much of the audience was watching the balancing acts going on simultaneously… but it was light-hearted rather than titillating, including the finale, which was meant to be hectic but ended up just rather silly.

Almost everything else was performed with panache, making the less demanding manoeuvres look intense and the insane look easy. 

A spellbinding act between Todd Kilby and Lewis West on a flexible mounted pole was the most stunning and beautiful act of the evening, executed with grace and impeccable timing, with a wonderful interplay of trust and strength.   

The exceptionally skilled and disciplined troupe balance and lift each other, taking turns to literally carry the weight of the company on their shoulders, the girls included, despite being so petite. It seemed possible that the tiny hoop Melissa Knowles squeezed through would need upsizing if she ate so much as a baked bean. They impressed with their strength, comic timing, likeability and the ability to go from jovial chaos to a state of focus in seconds. In some of the acrobatic routines, a fraction out on timing and every muscle in arms and backs could rip. Equally impressive was the sense that this bendy bunch has possibly been born immune to the forces of gravity.

Circa is a roaring success in Europe, according to Lifschitz, but closer to home the responses are a little more varied, depending on venues. This performance seemed to be a hit with the typically more conservative Canberra audience. (Although there’s a small chance the three ovations could also have been due to the fact they were taken in G-strings and bras.)

Fugue or not, the show was riveting, funny, and completely enjoyable with beautiful, gasp aloud moments.

*NB: Apparently a fugue is a psychiatric condition, where too much is happening at once and the brain needs to choose what to focus on, and during which one is apparently conscious of one's actions but has no recollection of them after returning to a normal state. This effect is also achievable through consumption of a few too many Wunderbar cocktails.  

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