Professional circus performers make their tricks look so easy that the audience don’t appreciate the strength and coordination required. In presenting graduating Bachelor of Circus Arts students in Circus Showcase 2012, The National Institute of Circ
us Arts (NICA) shows its role in not only training future performers but also entertaining and educating audiences.
As many people know from their Bachelors degree, three years isn’t a lot of time to gain skills and produce something great. In Circus Showcase 2012, most of the performers executed routines that while not spectacular were thoroughly competent, and the odd wobble along the way just shows how difficult the skills are to master. Some performers tended to take much longer to set themselves up for a trick compared to professionals, but this may improve even over the course of this season with increased confidence.
A range of skills were demonstrated, mostly in solo performances. With so much circus around in recent years, the better acts appreciated the importance of novelty and tended to give us a character as well as tricks. For example, Jaimi Luhrmann delivered some surprises in an act featuring juggling, puppetry and synchronising with projected video.
Given a group of performers with diverse skills, the showcase approach is one way of giving everyone a few minutes to show their specialisations. This particular showcase initially seemed to be more ambitious and set up the rigging for a story. Dark-suited security men have their hands full after an energetic ensemble opening as a man storms the stage with an inflatable shark. Fitting acts to follow are Christie Murphy’s skillful tightwire act ending with her firing rounds from an assault rifle and speeding off on the back of a motorbike, and Molly Roper in a sparkly catsuit lusting after a diamond in her aerial hoop routine. This is all silly and, most importantly, unpredictable fun. Then there are disparate interludes such as a son trying desperately for his father’s approval that made me wish the show had fully committed to the thread it had started.
The dissolving of the story didn’t stop the show from being a good showcase however. Sometime security guard Jamie Bretman showed a deft touch in his mime with an unauthorised suitcase. The concluding gym scene, featuring clowning and balancing as Simon Wright’s nerd tries to get the girl, appropriately played to the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s exhortations in the track “Down, Up” definitely gave us “more energy”. The whole ensemble seemed committed to their aerobics class or somewhat risque contortions.
The showcase could have been made even more appealing by judicious cutting of similar sequences and more attention to building to a climax. And, as members of a band get introduced at some point in the night, introducing the performers here would help us put a name to the costumed figure and look out for their post-graduation shows, as I do for NICA alumni such as Chris, Sam and Taka of Three High Acrobatics.
Considering that the adult tickets to Circus Showcase 2012, a varied two hour production, are less than one third of the price of the cheapest Cirque du Soleil tickets for the coming season, overall I’d have to say “Roll up! Roll up!”