Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Canberra Circus Festival


Canberra Circus FestivalWarehouse Circus at The Big Top, Lions Youth Haven, Kambah Pool Road, Kambah, Canberra April 19-23, 2022.

Commentary by Frank McKone

Galoshes were definitely needed for the sploshes as the rain fell faster than a Warehouse youth performer unravelling down from the high point of an artistic three-dimensional ‘dance’, twisted in two strands of beautiful hung material which looked hardly likely to support her weight.  Then it supported two of them at once in a thrilling suspended daring duet!

Fortunately the Big Top didn’t drip on the audience, but I was worried about the electrics when the ground began to flood.  Would I ever get my car out of the parking paddock?  Would I ever get home on the terrifying drive on the Tuggeranong Parkway?

Like my language, circus always has an exaggeration about it, demonstrated admirably by the acts and the audience responses throughout the launch – almost literally – of the brand new Canberra Circus Festival, titled appropriately “The Great Big Circus Gala(h)” opening night.  For our overseas readers, galahs are wondrously silly large pink-and-grey parrots who entertain us throughout our Bush Capital, in cahoots with other crowds of sulphur-crested brilliantly white cockatoos.  This is the seat of Australian government, you should know – where the air is full of noise and flapping about, not necessarily signifying much, but fun to laugh at.

Nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of this circus crowd, from littlies to ancients like me, especially after the concert master with an enormously unlikely extending baton, trained us in the subtleties of clapping and cheering from the soft and thoughtful to letting go of all inhibition.

The Canberra Circus 5-day Festival is a sort of culmination of the thirty years’ development of Warehouse Circus since 1990 – the last two pandemic years shouldn’t be counted.  Except that the pressure of holding things down in lockdowns has built the energy for this new explosion.

The acts showcased performers from young barely teenagers training with Warehouse through to professionals from other visiting companies, making the point about how their skills keep developing even as they reach what I call middle-age, which the young think is old.  Personal development through circus arts is what Warehouse Circus was always all about: one strand of arts education.  

It was excellent to hear, as the Australian Capital Territory’s Minister for the Arts’ senior adviser Michael Liu emphasised the commitment from Tara Cheyne (who was unable to attend personally) to continuing support for the arts, and in particular the financial investment in Warehouse Circus which – with many other sponsorships and practical help from community and business organisations, such as the Lions Club – means that the Canberra Circus Festival will add to the many arts-based events in the Canberra calendar.

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