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Circus art at its bare bones – Circa

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Circa
on Wednesday 16 May 2012
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Circa. Image: Justin Nicholas, Atmosphere Photography

A small circus company from Brisbane is doing big things at Her Majesty’s Theatre this week. Stepping away from garish big tops and Cirque-du-Soliel-style-extravaganzas, Yaron Lifschitz’s Circa is stripping back circus art to its bare bones and the results are astonishing. The human body is pushed to the limit, and stunts, rather than theatrics, leave the audience holding its breath.

From the outset it is obvious that Circa is something new and exciting. The gradual awakening of the troupe gently introduces the audience to the ensemble, and sets off the seventy-five minute crescendo of activity that both quickens the pulse and takes the breath away. There was more than one occasion where the audience collectively gasped – aching to exclaim over the most recent stunt but daring not for fear of breaking the spell.

Each performer is a master of body movement, repeatedly defying the laws of physics (and physiology) as their bodies transform from rigidity to rubber. At times it seemed more feasible that the incredible acts of strength, balance, flexibility and finesse were being performed not by humans, but by otherworldly beings.

The troupe of seven consists of: Nathan Boyle, Jessica Connell, Daniel Crisp, Jarred Dewey, Todd Kilby, Alice Muntz and Brittannie Portelli. Their collective concentration and flair keep the audience on the edge of their seat throughout the entire production. Despite not one word being uttered, the performers say so much. The use of body, space and movement convey as much emotion as is witnessed in many theatrical dramas.

Yaron Lifschitz’s Circa is so adaptable, it is no wonder they have achieved international acclaim. I had initial reservations about Her Majesty’s Theatre as the performance venue, but with only a minimal set, Circa could be performed just about anywhere. Jason Organ’s lighting design heightened the production value as did Lifschitz’s choice of music – which added to the drama without ever drawing attention away from the troupe.

With a mix of individual, small group and ensemble acts, there is always something to be excited by. In ensemble acts, there is occasionally too much action to comprehend in one sitting – the audience chooses who to watch and, when the person standing on his head is the ‘boring bit’ that you disregard, the result is an awe-inspiring show. The solo and paired interludes offer not only a chance to showcase particular talents, but are a sprinkling of comic relief amid the death-defying action. Walking out of the theatre, the audience was buzzing with chatter about standout segments, but the surprise is half the fun, so you’ll have to see for it yourself.

Unfortunately the Adelaide season of Circa is ridiculously brief, but if you miss it now, Circa will be returning in June as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival with a new show – Love Song Circus.

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Rowan has written 39 articles on AussieTheatre
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