Brisbane Festival, Circa & Quatuor Debussy

Powerhouse Theatre

10th – 15th of September 2013


Reviewed by Guy Frawley




The official blurb for Opus on the Powerhouse website labels this performance a ‘delicate and savage dance of chamber music and contemporary circus’ so as you can imagine I wasn’t quite sure what exactly I was going to be getting as the lights dimmed. As it turns out, chamber music and circus are a great combination especially when served with the streak of savagery running through this Australian premiere performance.


What grace, what beauty, what spectacular core strength!


I could be wrong but I think it’s fair to say by now that we’re all relatively familiar with modern circus acrobatics, from the sideshows of Woodford to the pitched tents of Cirque du Soleil, it’s an art form that’s been everywhere over the last decade. Whilst I’m sure animals far and wide appreciate this reprieve from being made to perform, the downside is that it’s going to have to take something special to really grab me.


But this isn’t circus as you know it, this is circus with gravitas.


The frenetic combination of acrobatics, mime and dance set against a stark cavernous stage filled the performance with a demented intensity. A savage violence appeared throughout the performance however a disturbing disconnect grew out of this as whilst a lot of the movement was shockingly violent in nature, the expressions and responses from the cast were often out of sync with the action taking place. Often the choice of movement or position seemed to be chosen especially to elicit a guttural response from the audience, with several neck twisting contortions that would have done a spider walking Linda Blair proud.


Quatuor Debussy’s performance, both in their passionate playing of Shostakovich and their continued presence onstage throughout the scenes, was much more than just the soundtrack. I’d love to know whether the concept was inspired by the music or the music was chosen to fit the concept. Regardless the quartet’s musical and theatrical performance held the show together and provided Opus with a stable core required to balance the frenzied blend of acrobatics and dance.


The sheer strength and skill displayed is incredible and I can only imagine how many collective years of training have been invested to be able to present such an impressive show. The spectacular feats of human ability and gravity defying stunts are incredible, but it’s the intensity and passion of Opus that sets it apart. It plays until Sunday afternoon and if you’re in the mood for engaging physical theatre-meets-dance-meets-acrobatics with intense Russian chamber music then this show will definitely hit the spot.


Opus trailer from Circa on Vimeo.

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