Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

13th – 24th November 2012


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


In the circus we don’t need words to communicate. Instead we have the most magnificent expressive vehicle of all – the human body.

Yaron Lifschitz



The Helpmann Award winning Circa is in Brisbane for a short season and if you can get along to see it, in this crazy busy time of office parties, formals, ballet concerts, other Helpmann Award winning productions currently vying for your attention, and pre-Christmas drinks, you’ll admire the skill and enjoy the show.


Without a plot, props or any sort of set, Circa puts on the floor in front of us what they do best. And that’s circus. It doesn’t try to be anything else. It doesn’t need to. It’s enough – the individual and collective skill, and the bodies trembling with effort – it’s raw and it’s authentic, in the original sense of the word and not in the thousand-dollar-a-day-seminar kinda way.




The tone of the show is distinctly Australian and it feels like we could be just as easily standing around with beers at a barbeque in somebody’s backyard, egging each other on to try newer and harder tricks. “G’arn! Do it on yer head!” In fact, I’ve been to that barbeque! And so have you! It’s outrageous fun and has the audience in giggles from the outset, when a performer’s body suddenly appears, as if flung into the lit space from offstage. Other performers are not far behind and we soon get a sense of freedom, abandon and true blue Aussie larrikinism in the comical actions that follow.  Key to this is the lighting design, which provides changing spotlights, and later, fluidly moving shadows and bubbles of light, in which the bulk of the action takes place. It’s cheeky, friendly and funny. The performers are uniformly excellent and in this beginning is the essence of their production; it’s that abandon and bright, carefree Australian attitude. The daredevil display, an astonishing physical feat, followed by a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders and a grin, as if to say, “Yeah. I can do that. What of it?”




The inspiration could easily have been the re-discovery of a selection of basic acting exercises, which are familiar to those of us with any experience in a high school drama class – teachers, tertiary students and actors will attest – it’s lovely work, building on the basics; leading body parts, balances and counter balances, and meeting actors in the space. And a wonderful relaxed calm pervades, despite the daring of each feat. Sometimes you wish a show were more polished, precise and perfectly performed but in this, the mighty effort, the trembling and the vocal effects add to the overall charm of a show that doesn’t claim to be anything more than what you see and feel in the space. I’m happy to report that, as Director, Yaron Lifschitz aimed to do; the courage, openness and humanity of these performers find a way into the audience’s hearts.




Not without its more sombre moments, Circa manages to affect us with an intriguingly French soundtrack, baffling my husband, who wanted desperately to hear something less specific (no, not Australian). In complete contrast, I love the French aspect; it adds a sophisticated air and a sort of momentary sadness – a yearning – that somehow, for me anyway, circus has always had. Listening to a certain U2 song right through Year 10 may have something to do with that. The rope act is particularly poignant because of the mood the music creates. And then of course we up the anti again when we hear Cohen singing I Came So Far For BeautyI just love that song (I ruined a cassette tape back in the day, listening over and over and over again to Jennifer Warnes’ version from her album Famous Blue Raincoat), and at this point I glance over and notice Sam seems to have forgotten his gripes about any of the music. I’m glad to add another shared song to the mix tape of our lives!


Poppy says of Circa, “It was awesome! There was lots of excitement! Sometimes you wouldn’t usually see a girl picking up a boy. But I thought she would be strong enough because she’s in the circus. The ropes and the hula hoops were very funny.” Poppy is not an atypical audience member; she’s well versed in circus speak and she’s not as easy to please as you might think, having seen multiple Cirque du Soleil shows. She talked about the bodies moving through the light and the comedy right through our beautiful dinner at bucci after the show.


Queensland audiences are developing quite a taste for circus and the more discerning types will have already seen Circa. Actors, directors and choreographers too must have noticed the distinct dance theatre style continuing to develop with shows like Circa’s (yes, you know dance theatre; it’s what we used to call “physical theatre” and you’ve seen it executed exceptionally well in productions such as Stockholm and Tender Napalm at La Boite). It’s fascinating to see this sense of theatre and dance merging, all the while developing within a circus framework as well as a theatrical one. It’s such a delicious thing. I can’t wait to see more of it!


If you haven’t yet had a taste of Circa, you’re in for a real treat.


“Circa is like a meal. Full of ingredients and flavours you know but in combinations that are utterly new and often disconcerting.”

Yaron Lifschitz





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