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Wunderkammer

“… caresses us with its extravagance, grandeur and rigour.”

Berliner Morgenpost, Germany

In this exquisite cabaret of the senses, a diva melts into a rope, balloons and bubble wrap discover their artistic souls while bodies twist and fly. Seven performers of unbelievable ability bend the very fabric of reality. Sexy, funny and explosive, Circa presents a breathless cocktail of new circus, cabaret and vaudeville. Control and abandon, skill and humour, lyricism and anarchy all meld into a sinuous fugue of profound beauty.

About

World premiere Brisbane, Australia 2010
Performers 7
Duration 85 Minutes
Touring History Australia, Germany, France, Wales, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, USA, Spain, the UK

Reviews

Herald Scotland, Edinburgh “Fringe Circus: Wunderkammer Published 16 August 2013
http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/stage/fringe-circus-wunderkammer-tangram-bianco.21878254

If there is a company that persuades you circus is an art form, then the Circa troupe from Oz is it – making trapeze work, acrobatics, hoops and the Chinese Pole into thrilling little essays on the wonders of the human body and the potential of the human spirit.
Wunderkammer is the aptly-named showcase for three women and four men who all have well-honed specialities but who knit together seamlessly as a gravity-defying ensemble.

Mutual trust is allied to focus and timing in sessions of throw and catch – a performer the hurtling in-flight go-between – and human towers seem as much about co-operation as they are about strength and balance.

Because Circa has no truck with the machinery of uber-thematic set designs, the emphasis throughout is on the performers as flesh and blood people. Sometimes it is humorous, and sexy with it. The frisky little costumes that pop on, and pop off – most unexpectedly as part of a languorous routine on trapeze – play about with the tease of burlesque.

But perhaps what shocks most is the beauty and emotional impact of some sections. The girl, orbiting shimmering silver hoops round her body is just magical, but the two men interacting on the Chinese Pole, their athletic bouts of camraderie and rivalry, brinkmanship and bravado set to Arvo Part’s Fratres, don’t just take your breath away, they make sudden tears catch at the back of your throat.
Liam Rudden 2013, Edinburgh Evening News, Edinburgh

“Fringe Preview: Circa Wunderkammer, Underbelly” published August 7 2013
http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/what-s-on/theatre/fringe-preview-circa-wunderkammer-underbelly-1-3031651

THERE is a sublime moment in Wunderkammer, currently playing the McEwan Hall, when two of Circa’s performers defy gravity by clinging to a Chinese pole with their thighs.

This is circus at its most breathtaking, and just one of the highlights of Australia’s most renowned contemporary circus troupe’s new show.
Seductive, witty and awe-inspiring, Wunderkammer is an explosive cocktail of circus, cabaret and vaudeville. It’s also gloriously risqué, edgily dangerous and very cheeky, quite literally.

A deliciously subversive guilty pleasure, imagine taking elements of the Jim Rose Circus, Archaos and the Caesar Twins, then rolling them all into one.
“What makes Wunderkammer different, special and amazing, is the amount of heart that goes into it,” says company member Freyja Edney. “You’re not just seeing a bunch of performers doing amazing tricks, you are seeing people explore their relationships with each other, with themselves and with the audience.”

As the performer’s mood is reflected in the spectacular balancing and trapeze acts with which they wow audiences, it comes as little surprise to discover that no two Circa shows are the same. “We have three scenes which are improvised,” says Edney. “That way the show can be experienced by each audience member in their own way, allowing them to take from it what they want.”
Another highlight of the show is the eye-watering flexibility of contortionist and trapeze artist Jarred Dewey, who reveals that the troupe undergo a three hour warm-up in preparation for each show.
“Circa’s work is very stripped back and minimal,” he says. “We take the best parts of traditional and contemporary circus and mash them together to create something quite emotive.

“We use the warm-up to maintain our flexibility by stretching, to build our strength and to make new material. It just keeps our bodies in check, which prevents us getting injured.”

Fragile and petit, Melissa Knowles joined the company as a musician, but now performs as a gymnast with the troupe.
She adds, “I had never intended to do this. I came to visit for a few days and ended up hooked and found myself staying with the company. New circus is empowering and moves my soul in a way that traditional circus does not.”
With humour, emotion, seduction and awe-inspiring feats of strength and bravery, Wunderkammer will do the same for you… as well as drawing the odd gasp of disbelief.

Bess Rowen 2013, The Huffington Post, New York City “Wunderkinder: Circa’s Wunderkammer” published March 26, 2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bess-rowen/wunderkinder-circas-wunderkammer_b_2937384.html

The dark auditorium at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts is quiet, but you can feel the excitement in the air. Jessica Connell is perched on a trapeze in a single spotlight as a piece of classical music plays. As I watched her dance on and with the trapeze, I couldn’t help but think of how different Circa’s circus experience is from my adventure with Cirque du Soleil last week. Wunderkammer, Australian company Circa’s current offering, is a delicious mix of circus, dance and burlesque.

This is a more adult circus to be sure – there are pasties involved, as well as some scantily clad performers – but I want to be clear that this isn’t a raunchy show. It is also adult in that it has a totally different structure than the short multiple acts and flash, bang, bling that accompany Cirque (not that any of these things are bad). Here we have a core group of incredibly talented men and women who go through a number of beautifully choreographed routines that give you enough time to get to know each of them in greater detail.

And each one of these athletes/performers/amazing humans is truly talented. Nathan Boyle, Jessica Connell, Daniel “Crispy” Crisp, Robbie Curtis, Casey Douglas, Brittannie Portelli and Kimberley Rossi all perform acts of strength, balance, agility and grace that have the audience’s rapt attention. These individuals are the pure focus of the production, which has a minimal set, a different song for each act, several lights, some fog, one trapeze, one set of Chinese straps and actors in simple costumes.

The intimacy created by using a group of performers without any kind of overpowering set creates a totally difference kind of viewing experience. The spectacle is all in the amazing abilities of the performers. I say abilities and not spectacle because, though these are obviously spectacular bodies in terms of their capabilities, the artful ways in which the numbers of constructed tend to have a gentler arc. In other words, even when parts of the show are one trick after another, there is a graceful flow and balance to the piece as a whole.
This fits in perfectly with the Brisbane, Australia based company’s description of themselves as “A place where acrobatics and movement meld into a seamless whole. A celebration of the expressive possibilities of the human body at its extremes.” I rarely agree so wholeheartedly with a company’s self-stated description, but, Circa is absolutely accurate. That is a testament to Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz and the rest of the Circa cast and crew.

Another aspect of Circa’s Wunderkammer that stood out to me was the way it highlighted the incredible versatility of both male and female performers. This is the first show I have ever seen where women lifted men. Throughout the piece, the female body was repeatedly shown to be as strong as its male counterparts. In one part of the show Kimberley Rossi and Jessica Connell went through a routine that showed how strong unusual parts of their bodies are, such as their necks. I was amazed at the fact that I had never seen women be allowed to showcase that kind of strength before. The men were relieved of their repeated place as the base of acrobatic routines as well, as male-male pairs challenged those conceits as well. Also, Nathan Boyle performs a wonderfully beautiful and hilarious dance piece near the middle that makes you want to say “let’s hear it for the boys”.

As you might have guessed, I simply loved this show. Circuses are definitely in right now, but it is always possible to see a bad example of this difficult form. Luckily, here in New York we have fantastic groups like Australia’s Circa coming to visit with some fantastic examples of how to do this right. Unfortunately, the show is over on Sunday, but next time you see the name Circa, make sure to catch more of the wunkerkinder of Wunderkammer.

Liz Arratoon, The Stage Reviews, “Wunderkammer”, published July 20, 2011 http://www.newsonstage.co.uk/index.php/hop/latest/1/93993

Circus, as everyone knows, is everywhere, but few companies can match the innovation and sheer brilliance of Circa. Having stunned audiences with its production of the same name last year, this young Aussie troupe is back with the aptly named Wunderkammer, meaning wonder room. It is a dream of a show, fizzing with energy and élan, even with Scott Grove missing through injury.

Stylish, minimal strip-lighting and a red/black palette for the spike-heel patent shoes and costumes – mostly underwear – make it visually beautiful and arresting. But, driven by a thoughtful mix of music, it is the dazzling physicality of the six performers that makes your heart stop.

In his poetic tumbling/break-dance number, Lewie West has the grace of a dancer. His acrobatic moves are simply beyond belief. Emma Serjeant’s handstand routine in red pointe shoes is also sublime, but there are no one-trick ponies here. All of the performers have myriad skills, and – reminiscent of those other Aussie wizards, Simon Yates and Jo-Ann Lancaster of Acrobat – look trained to within an inch of their lives. The women, particularly hula hoop performer Freyja Edney, are as strong as the men, often lifting or supporting them.

Everything from a bubble-wrap tap dance to lifts aided by a pinch of flesh here, a snatch of hair there, is given a quirky edge – a mouth becomes a useful foothold in the static trapeze sequence.

White-hot, funny and sexy, these are super-human acrobats masquerading as mere mortals. They raise the bar of what is possible, giving British contemporary circus a real target.

Acknowledgments

Created by Yaron Lifschitz with the Circa Ensemble

Director Yaron Lifschitz
Technical Director /Lighting Designer Jason Organ
Stage Design Yaron Lifschitz and Jason Organ
Costume Design Libby McDonnell

International representation (please credit as appropriate)
Paul Tanguay (Worldwide)
David Lieberman / Artists’ Representatives (USA)

Circa acknowledges the assistance of the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland. This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Ministry for the Arts’ Catalyst—Australian Arts and Culture Fund. 

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