08
May
14

Beyond

 

Beyond

By Circa

Brisbane Powerhouse

April 30 – May 11 2014

 

Featuring Billie Wilson-Coffey, Bridie Hooper, Gerramy Marsden, Kathryn O’Keefe, Paul O’Keefe, Rudi Mineur and Skip Walker-Milne.

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

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This is a strange show. Anything preceded by a voiceover informing us of a dream state is bound to be a little bit strange, right? It’s a license to deviate, to explore new territory, something for which Circa is renowned. This production is a step “beyond”, existing somewhere between a place of waking and dreaming, and just around the corner from Pink Elephants on Parade type nightmares. It’s not scary, though it comes to us from some scary success overseas, our Brisbane season being the Australian premiere. Beyond is the sort of show you just know can’t fail, and yet it might leave you (or you might leave it) feeling a little removed from the action. This is intended because after all, who wants to stay trapped in a weird dream state not knowing for sure whether one is a bunny (or a bear or a wolf!) or a human being?

 

Circa’s collaborative creative process has allowed seven talented performers to explore their animal instincts and human foibles, and to discover new heights – literally – when it comes to some tried and true circus acts, including acrobatics, Chinese Pole and tissu. You know I love tissu and this act comes brilliantly from an unexpected place, fooling us into believing we can all walk right on up – LITERALLY – and do it too! (It reaffirms my thoughts about circus and cabaret revealing the purest forms of performance confidence). There is wonderful joy in so much of what Circa does and too many moments to mention bring the sweetest smiles to faces around us. When Skip Walker-Milne scales a Chinese Pole dressed in a teddy bear suit two sizes too big the act is all clumsy finesse and very, very funny. We hear audience members actually hoot with laughter. When he returns to repeat the act without the comedy it’s also sans bear suit and it draws gasps from the same audience members, in awe of Walker-Milne’s obvious dexterity and strength. To balance this sort of comedy and raucousness with measured doses of tenderness, beauty and superb skill is no mean feat and Beyond is the perfect showcase, in which each of Circa’s performers do just that.

 

Director, Yaron Lifschitz certainly has an eye for the absurd and with design team, Jason Organ and Libby McDonnell, the mood created is so surreal we feel time and space are stretched. We’re reminded that there is nothing beyond the capabilities of our imagination, and we get to bring our own to the table and take part in the dream state created on stage when the performers feed a massive measure of blue silk sea over our heads and all the way up the tiered seating, again shattering the divide between performer and spectator. We have already been confronted by performers stepping off the stage and into the cabaret seating space, engaging in eye contact and what seems to be some sort of dare – go on, respond! Only to see them turn their backs on us and return to the stage space.

 

STRANGE. In a good, bold way.

 

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The wonder and delight on Poppy’s blue-lit face beneath the fabric for that fun, frenzied (yet STRANGELY CALM) moment makes the half-day of waiting in the wind and cold of New Farm Park for this (7pm on a Sunday) show worthwhile. Also, as you’ll know if you were there (anyone not at the Roar game must have been there!), there were roses and sunshine…and the adventure playground! So we had a lovely afternoon and then, when it got too, too, TOO cold downstairs by the river at Watt Bar, we retreated to the warm atmosphere and actual warmth of Bar Alto. How lucky are we to have a show to go to at 7pm on a Sunday, in a truly multi-faceted venue far, far away from the crazy antics of the sports fanatics? (I know, the sports fanatics look at us and go, “Who are YOU callin’ crazy?”). Also, Bar Alto actually offers some of the best pizza, olives and arrancini balls in Brisbane and I have seen the bar staff run off their feet for days and nights on end (this year’s WTF & APAM! OMG!), and I have never seen anyone behind that bar get cranky or even miss a beat. TAKE NOTE MOOLOOLABA ESPLANADE WAIT STAFF! Sigh. Just sayin’, guys. There are times when the big QPAC productions open on a Sunday night, and even on Broadway there are currently four Sunday evening productions running when so many of the theatres stay dark. It’s a school night, after all, so not for everybody, but thanks to Brisbane Powerhouse we have another end-of-the-weekend entertainment option, particularly important over the next few months, historically the busiest for live theatre.

 

Anyway, what Lifschitz, Organ and McDonnell have done with the space is deceptively simple, opening up multiple performance spaces within the Powerhouse Theatre by creating three small stages, each with their own plush red curtain. If it were darker, and sadder, and a little bit stranger again, we might be in a David Lynch film. Yes, you know I’m gonna’ do it. It’s Rebekah del Rio’s Llorando (Crying) from Mulholland Drive. Of course you know it. It’s been haunting you too, hasn’t it?

 

 

But the quirks contained in Circa’s Beyond are more unnerving than disturbing (and don’t worry, there’s nothing tragic and surprisingly, no clunky transitions, just so you know). Anything really oddball is quickly shrugged off with the help of the performers’ fabulous facial expressions and adept comic timing. It means we’re able to connect with them after all, even with the delightfully demanding “Bunnies” in their black and white pumps (probs not quite what you’re actually picturing), even when the line between human being and beast is blurred to such an extent we might fear the chaos for an instant, yes, even in this surreal, half-removed state; we are able to appreciate the superb skill of these artists, who bring us a new brand of circus cabaret. We see a glimpse of something like it under The Spielgeltent each year, but it’s Circa’s sophistication and poise that sets this company apart. (It’s true, Beyond has been seen under The Spielgeltent; this trailer makes it look and feel like a completely different show, thanks to the famous venue and the clever edit for a festival audience!).

 

Now, before you get excited about a new-look Brisbane Festival in 2014 and Cirque du Soleil’s return in 2015 (I KNOW! IT’S TOTEM!), you must venture down the rabbit hole and experience Circa’s Beyond before it disappears. It’s something else entirely, and you’ll kick yourself if you wake up and find you’ve missed it. It finishes on Saturday with two final performances at 2pm and 7pm.

 

Circa is offering a free open training day on Sunday May 18. For details email info@circa.org.au or call 07 3852 3110.

 

 

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