REVIEWS

“Circa’s laugh out loud yet moving”, Phil Brown, ‘The Courier Mail’, 1 May 2014
There’s more to being funny than just putting on a giant rabbit head. Or is there? The fact is I laughed every time one of Circa’s circus performers did so and they do it regularly in Beyond, the latest offering from this Brisbane-based outfit.

The show was described to me by artistic director Yaron Lifschitz as a journey into the world of fantasy through a series of rabbit holes, al la Alice in Wonderland, and he and his performers have certainly created an alternate reality on stage. The animal heads and costumes are quizzical and, as a device, they work to help explore the premise of the show, the fine line between humans and animals, or our animal selves.

Now I’m not altogether sure why, but I simply loved this show. Was it the fantasy elements? The music? It certainly had a lot to do with the acrobatic feats – they are often mind-boggling, sometimes muscular, sometimes lyrical, sometimes just plain funny.

This show has played in Berlin and England before coming back for a hometown premiere. They loved it in Europe and you can see why. With the plush red curtains and the dada fun there’s a touch of Weimar cabaret to this show although there’s only one song in German. Choosing good music helps and it was wonderful to hear Nat King Cole and Andy Williams as well as some of the edger stuff. And of course after their long season in Berlin there had to be a Nick Cave number and there is, a cover of The Ship Song. The last track blew me away but I won’t say what it is because I don’t want to spoil it for you.

The show is very playful with elements of clowning as well as the cabaret slideshow and acrobatic elements. It’s a foil for exploring that sense of wonderment that we sometimes lose as we go about our daily lives. I think one of the reasons I find circus so enriching is that it’s so divorced from reality. It encourages and enables flights of fancy and gives me, well, a bit of a holiday from myself in the process.

The performers themselves are gobsmacking good with everything from the sideshow tricks to the trapeze and Chinese Pole displays. It’s hard to highlight anyone in particular although Bridie Hooper is a bit of a favourite. Her contortionism is mind-bending. Everyone is good though and the guys are very funny. Skip Walker-Milne’s comedic persona is particularly engaging. He has that Tommy Cooper ability to get you laughing at him by just standing there with a silly look on his face.

It should be pointed out that this is a show that will appeal to youngsters, maybe not littlies but certainly anyone 12 and over. It’s accessible, theatrical, hilarious at times and also very moving, which makes it a pretty emotionally satisfying experience.

Setting tables up down the front and serving drinks is a nice touch too it gives it that KitKat Club ambience. The view from there is awesome as you vert bear the performers who do stray into the audience at times. Luckily they didn’t pick on me but they may pick on you.

“Circa elite prove more than one-trick ponies”, Shaaron Boughen, ‘The Australian’, 5 May 2014

Fresh from a successful season in Berlin, Circa has returned to Brisbane with the Australian premiere of Beyond in a relaxed cabaret setting at the Powerhouse. It explores the fine line between human and animal behaviour, from the abstract and surreal to more literal readings.

The performers, in oversize fluffy rabbit heads, appear quietly and curiously. At first, the atmosphere is emotionally distant; the second half of the show has a more direct relationship with the audience. The animal references, furry bear costumes and moose heads become more realistic and literal so that, eventually, party animals dance frenetically among the audience.

Artistic director Yaron Lifschitz and his ensemble elevate the traditional circus act to a poetic realm of artistry and technical skill. The set design — with lighting by Jason Organ and costumes by Libby McDonnell — comprises three small stages with red velvet curtains, where the action takes place on, through and around.

In one routine, Billie Wilson-Coffey is on silks draped from ceiling to floor. The focus on musical phrasing, theatrical control and spare use of tricks
shifts the routine into the aesthetic domain, creating an emotional response that is not due to circus tricks alone.

In a duo, Kathryn O’Keeffe, in red pointe shoes, takes the dominant role, carrying Skip Walker-Milne on her back on pointe and doing all the lifting. Gender roles are reversed, but there is a reference to femininity and delicacy in the balletic use of pointe shoes, and cruelty and implicit sexual deviancy when Walker-Milne walks on O’Keeffe’s split legs, pressing them further apart.

Lifschitz revels in these extremes of danger, fantasy, humour, strength, gender, sexuality and cruelty, which cross-reference each other in this powerful duo. Circa’s seven elite performers give thrills and excitement. They are multiskilled and devastatingly brilliant performers in a show that goes beyond the circus trick and offers a theatrical experience with complexity and significance.

“Stage Review 
Darwin in Wonderland”, ‘Berliner Morgenpost’, 20 August 2013

A beautiful woman tempts you with irresistible flexibility behind the curtain. Her movements are somewhat unsettling, but they make you curious for more. So you follow her willingly – and suddenly find yourself in a completely different world. Here, three round, deep-red stage booths give off a slightly wicked feel. Yet, instead of any illicit goings-on, things become wondrous considering the acrobats with huge, fluffy rabbit heads and the energetic older gentleman with the distinctive whiskers.

Alice in Wonderland meets Charles Darwin: welcome to the wonderfully bizarre world of CIRCA! “Beyond” is the name of the new cabaret show at the Chamäleon Theatre, the brainchild of director Yaron Lifschitz, which bears the meaningful subtitle “The Beast”. The piece explores all the shades of human nature as well as the fine line between humans and animals, dreaming and logic.

It sounds deeply philosophical. And it is, but only on the second or third look. The superb Australian ensemble really understands how to combine captivating artistry and fast- paced Vaudeville, poetry and comedy in such a way that you cannot fail to be amazed. In doing so, it is not the men but rather the women who set the pace of the circus to swinging jazz and electronic minimal vibes. Such as with strong hand-in-hand acrobatics unlike anything seen before, a dizzying, agile balancing act on wobbly Rubik’s Cubes while blindfolded, or wonderful routines in the air using silks, a trapeze or rope.

The relaxed casualness with which the body’s flexibility is put to the test is particularly fascinating. A masterpiece that sparkles, like the finest champagne.

“Magical premiere of Beyond at the Chamaleon”, ‘Siegessäule’, 9 August 2013

The Australian company C!rca is back in town – with a world premiere.

August 9 – It is actually set up in a really simple way, yet even the set for the new show at the Chamäleon is capable of bewitching you. On the stage are three small round stages fitted with red curtains. It feels like a mix between cabaret and a freak show – wicked, forbidden, weird, wonderful. For ‘Beyond’, the Australian company C!rca turns into a harmonious unit consisting of highly visible individual personalities under the direction of Yaron Lifschitz. They work together like clockwork as they move around the large three-part stage: jumping, flying, spinning, with each other, over each other, against each other.

It’s clear that the women dominate the evening: they are stunningly beautiful, highly flexible and unbelievably strong. Rowan Heydon-White, for instance, manages to hold two men with ease. She is a giant (if there is such a thing) who fits through a tennis racket and can sort the sides of a Rubik’s Cube according to colours, while others jump around her and climb onto her. With ‘Beyond’, the company and director aim to blur the line between man and animal and go beyond the invisible barrier. However, in actual fact, the acrobats hover around the border of enchanting brilliance. They amaze the audience without crossing the line into heavy-handed sensation. There are sizzling moments between women, between men, between everyone – who with whom isn’t really important. All in all, a perfectly composed show that thrilled the audience at the premiere.

“Circa:Beyond-Review”, Lyn Gardner ‘The Guardian’, June 3 2013

A man in a bear suit attempts to climb a Chinese pole, sliding away before skill finally triumphs over absurdity. Two women wearing outsize white rabbit heads with floppy ears watch over an increasingly flustered man doing a cigar-box balancing act. They tap their feet impatiently, glancing at imaginary watches as if they are close cousins of the perennially late White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

There is something so dreamy and hallucinogenic about this latest show from Australian circus sorcerers Circa that you keep expecting to hear a blast of Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane. Instead you get Frank Sinatra, Bonnie Tyler and Amanda Palmer, who do very nicely in a show that constantly points up the cartoon ridiculousness of human endeavour as well as the body’s fragile, astonishing beauty under extreme pressure. You see every glistening drop of sweat; at one point, a plastic water bottle is squeezed to mimic the imaginary sound of spines and muscles screaming as they are contorted.

In truth, the show doesn’t quite deliver what it promises: a journey into an abnormal forest of the imagination and the animal within the human. There is a circus show to be made about being furry on the inside, and this isn’t it. But what the show lacks in thematic continuity, it makes up for through individual acts and the co-operation of the performers, who curl around each other’s bodies like clinging ivy around tree trunks.
There is a breathtaking doubles trapeze in which the woman is the base – as ever with Circa, gender roles and sexual politics are under constant scrutiny, culminating in a wriggle through a stringless tennis racquet in which breasts prove an obstruction and the handle becomes a phallus – it’s a mind-boggling moment, acrobalance meeting Rubik’s Cube. Not quite what it says on the tin, but still ridiculously charming and outrageously skilled.