Thursday, October 6, 2022

Elemental - Warehouse Circus


Elemental by Warehouse Circus.  Produced by Aleshia Johnson, at Street One, Canberra, October Wed 5- Sat 8, 7pm; Matinee Sat 8, 1pm, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
Opening night Thursday Oct 6

Warehouse Artistic Director – Tom Davis

Elemental Director – Idris Stanbury
Assistant Director / Stage Manager – Ashley Cox
Choreography – The Cast, Ashley Cox, Ellen Cunningham, Maisie Walker-Stirling, Dimitri Yialeloglou
Props – Clare Pengryffyn, Bonnie Roppola
Costumes – Lynne Johnson, Ashley Cox, Ellen Cunningham
Lighting and Sound Design – Idris Stanbury
Live Music Arrangement – Kian MacLeod
String Teacher Extraordinaire – Jenny Higgs

Elemental uses circus and comedy to explore the effects of weather and the seasons on the world around us. A show that explores all sides of the natural systems that affect our lives, sometimes dramatically. A thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining circus show perfect for all ages, with something for everyone.”  The Street Theatre publicity describes Warehouse Circus’s 2022 production perfectly.

Quality modern circus needs to bring together three crucial elements: skills, entertainment, meaning.  Learning the physical skills individually is not enough: working in concert with a team is the beginning of making circus.  Performing physically amazing things that made the little person just behind me say many times “Ooh, I can’t do that!” is the core of circus entertainment.  Add in clowning, and riding and ‘taming’ animals, and fear of accident, injury or even death, and we have the kind of circus I remember a generation or two ago as a child in 1940s and 1950s London.  

It was Circus Oz in the late 1970s who introduced me to animal’s rights (by not riding or ‘taming’ them) and to making the acts into a drama about social issues.  Director of Elemental, Idris Stanbury, writes “Each scene is inspired by the effects of the elements on life [wind, fire and water each get a special guernsey], seemingly positive or negative; large weather events really do shape Australia.”  And so each act is choreographed to a sound track of a “mix of genres, pop songs and deep cuts, reflecting the meaning…”

Warehouse Circus is not just about training young people to be skilled physical performers of tumbling, balancing, swinging on trapezes, and juggling.  Funded through ACT Health and the Community Services Directorate, it is for the Australian Capital Territory an ArtsACT Key Arts Organisation “not-for-profit dedicated to improving the mental and physical health of young people through the medium of social circus.”  And this means for the audience as much as for the performers, at least their mental health, judging by the enthusiastic responses of the children and their parents to the show I saw tonight.  And the clapping (and oohs and aahs) was very vigorous physically, too.

So I congratulate everyone involved in creating and presenting Elemental for so successfully combining the elements of physical skills, entertainment (with special mention of the comedy skills of the four clowns who spread the seeds from which the whole show grew), and the meaning about the environment left for us to contemplate.  

It was very clear to me that, as Artistic Director Tom Davis writes, “They all take their training as seriously as they take their approach to stagecraft.”  Well done!