Brisbane Festival & The Courier-Mail
The Courier-Mail Piazza
September 11 – 25 2015
Pirates of the Carabina (UK)
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
We all wanted to run away with the circus, but these are the kids who ran away with the circus and then ran away again to join the Pirates of the Carabina, a special bunch from the UK, positioning themselves far away from the establishment, and bringing a new circus sub-culture to Oz. Can we keep them???
FLOWN is an entirely new take on an eternally popular, reinvigorated form, which celebrates high above our heads, human daring and awe-inspiring achievement. The only slightly irreverent stuff that comes close is Circa (their youth performances particularly) and Chelsea McGuffin’s Company 2 (Scotch & Soda returns to the Judy in November… Don’t miss it!).
FLOWN is unique in terms of its approach to the traditional conventions, its chaotic energy, and its hipster vibe juxtaposed against surprising elegance.
Where other companies have tried and failed to pull off something so expertly nonchalant, these piratical acrobats proudly retain a sense of themselves as individuals as well as coming together as a tight-knit rebel band, literally, of multi-talented performers who know their strengths and play to them. We witness behind-the-scenes catastrophe and terrific comedy in the on-stage shenanigans, and these elements have the audience in stitches as well as gasping in horror/mock horror – was something supposed to fall or not?!
The circus acts form the basis of a loose narrative: the company makes a concerted effort to put on a show, despite frequent disaster. Monologues delivered by cast members break up the acts by putting voice to random thoughts and memories about the circus. (The whole premise of talking to us has already been established by a woman dressed in theatre blacks, who offers in the tradition of Hamlet to the Players in Act 3 Scene 2, her “Director’s Notes” before the show starts).
It’s an exercise in neatly conceived contrast. The delight inspired by a miniature horse drawn chariot, which appears for no particular reason, plays sharply against the surreal beauty of a mischievous flying floor lamp, or a length of white fabric amassed before a robust tissu act is performed. For some reason the cascading tissu elicits an emotional response that catches me off guard. Is it the music? The imagery? This is not the only moment of beauty to creep up and take me by surprise…
Shaena Brandel’s counterweighted aerial hoop duet with Barnz Munn, the most extraordinarily captivating aerial rigger ever, amazes, not least because it involves an ironing board, which has previously been played and ironed upon. She makes me think of Essie Davis as Miss Fisher and Lizzie Moore as herself, her loveliness made all the more alluring in the crescent of her swinging, spinning, silvery full moon and a sweet moment stolen by Munn.
Performed by the petite Laura Moy (and Munn), a counterweighted flying pole act is beyond beautiful; serene and overflowing with the sensation of flying, even for us, transfixed in our seats. Another more traditional pole act becomes a thrilling, gravity defying pas de deux.
A high wire act featuring the too-cool-for-school Ellis Grover showcases not only his perfect balance but also his knack for casually playing harmonica and chatting away about life-changing childhood experiences from a great height. He quips, “This is as hard as it looks!” Not only that, but he’s the drummer in the band! A class act, this guy proves that playing around and swinging on chairs in the classroom can pay off!
Tia Kalmaru seduces and stuns old-school Tori (faery) Amos / Jesca Hoop style, with her vocal and instrumental versatility, fitting in and standing out like a pin-up storyteller rock star. Her monologue is delivered in her native Welsh – pure magic – and she too flies for the finale, looking completely at home playing electric guitar mid-air.
The entire show feels like it was created at Woodford Folk Festival over several years, in between Circadia gigs, Pineapple Bar drinks and post-show recovery brekky antics on the Village Green just for fun and then, one day, magically, funding allowed it to fly free and travel the world! (#everyartistsdream)!
The soundtrack is sensational – you can purchase the CD and relive the experience at home. Or, if you miss it, imagine it and wish you’d seen it for yourself. But it’s not too late, you can still catch it…this festival run won’t finish until Saturday 25! Book online.
FLOWN is a joyous, momentous circus event. It will delight, surprise and inspire the whole family. If only I had time in my life to see it again…often.