Friday, September 16, 2016


Carnival of  the Animals

Created by Yaron Lifschitz and the Circa ensemble A production by Circa and QPAC’s Out of the Box Festival Director Yaron Lifschitz Production Manager/Lighting Designer Jason Organ Video Design Michaela French Sound Designer/ Composer Quincy Grant
Costume Design Libby McDonnell Set Design Yaron Lifschitz, Jason Organ, Libby McDonnell and Michaela French, Costume Design Libby McDonnell Costume Creation Team Janie Grant, Susan Gibson, Trang Vo, Chris Healy, Selene Cochrane, Karen Blinco, Sarah White, Maria Wong & Kate Jefferay Director of International Partnerships Jennifer Cook International Representation Paul Tanguay (Worldwide) Thomas O. Kriegsmann (USA) Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. September 15-18 2016.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

It all begins simply enough. A spot lights up four suitcases one on top of the other in the centte of the vast Canberra Theatre stage. Enter a clown dressed in black with a bowler hat upon her head and a red nose, the mark of a clown upon her face. Three strikes of her staff upon the floor and the stage bursts into action as acrobats tumble and whirl, spin and turn, somersault and roll to create a carnival world of red and white striped drapes and a canopy with animals drawn along the edge. This is a world of transformation, transporting audiences into a magical world of the wonders of the animal world om land, on sea and air. There is still the flavor of a bygone era, when circus was the entertainment king and acrobats, jugglers and clowns held sway upon  an amazed and delighted crowd.

CIRCA’s production of Carnival of the Animals still captures the charm, the skill and the wonderment of the art of acrobatics, but the production is lent a whimsical air with the use of Nineteenth century French composer  Camille Saint-Saenn’s captivating Carnival of the Animals suite.
A challenge to acrobatic troupes is to discover innovative new concepts and approaches to present familiar routines in a new and exciting way. The agile, youthful, highly skilled Circa troupe perform the customary trapeze, hoop, balancing and tumbling routines with aplomb. The clown routines offer the usual comic relief, usually at the expense of one of the pair.

What makes Carnival of the Animals such a delightful performance is the use of Saint-Saenn’s bright classical composition to underscore, the performers’ fascinating transformation from animal to human to animal, the nostalgic nineteenth century circus setting and the spectacular use of video animation as a panoramic backdrop to the performance.

Before our very eyes, the cast would transform from the human form to animals such as the cast, the peacock, the skipping kangaroos, fish and birds as the remarkable projections featured the rich variety of animals of land, sea and air. In fact, the projected images, so ingenious in their devising, so bold in colour and so inventive in their magical art of creating the drawing of an elephant that would come to life before our very eyes and be mirrored by the phenomenal dexterity and suppleness of the performers on stage. It made for a night of splendid collaboration between imagery, acrobatics and music. At times, the video projections were so prominent that they upstaged the routines upon the stage.

Ingenuity and artistry shine as animals parade their skills at balancing, skipping, leaping through hoops and preening themselves. Hands turn into ears as bodies bend and curve to end a routine as an animal, and young faces beam with excitement.

Smiles turn to squeals as sharks leap through the audience or tiny hands reach out to touch the flying rad balloons that soar above the audience’s heads in an interactive display of unforgettable colour and fun.

As it began, so the show comes to a close as the drapes fall, the canopy collapses and the performers reveal the letters T-H-E-  E-N-D. on the suitcases;  Carnival of the Animals reminds us that we share the world with the many members of the animal kingdom. It is a company to marvel at, and CIRCA has shown us a world to delight in.

As there was no programme provided for the show, I am unable to name the cast or mention particular moments of amazing skill, Suffice to say that this ensemble is a joy to watch in a show that delights the eye, warms the heart amazes at its skill and is not to be missed.