EXTRACTS FROM REVIEWS
“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.”
THE STAGE, UK
“Circa have reinvented circus the way Cirque du Soleil did decades ago before they became predictable-but the young company is way cooler.”
‘Circa have established that they’re back with more to say and a great understanding of how to enthral an audience.’
‘It’s a fleshy fantasy, complete with strip trapeze that flirts and flexes in equal measure.’
‘…there is genuine risk… as well as passages of sensual mesmerizing beauty.’
THE TIMES, UK
“Extraordinary acrobatics turns circus upside down at the Barbican”.
HORNSET, CROUCH END & MUSWELL HILL JOURNAL, UK
“…the brilliant Australian circus Circa…”
THE GUARDIAN, UK
“… a breathtaking highlight for young and old!”
“I thought I was over circus spectacles, but Wunderkammer, Circa’s world premiere at the new Powerhouse outdoor venue, has converted me. Simply, this was the best circus I’ve ever seen. Consistently inventive, moving along at a turbo-charged rate, provocatively sexy and displaying a full complement of skills across the ensemble, it left you gobsmacked. While it had touches of artistic director Yaron Lifschitz’s trademark S&M aesthetic with dark asides and nods to neo-burlesque, this was his homage to the body in its extreme flights, taking you to another realm. ”
“Presented in inventive and unique forms, the strength, control and flexibility displayed by the ensemble…is astounding.”
THE COURIER MAIL, BRISBANE
“fantastic entertainment: shocking at times, thrilling, sexy, beautiful, moving and captivating throughout.”
“genuinely spectacular… highly original which adds greatly to the sense of wonder and danger.”
ARTS HUB, AUSTRALIA
“faster, stronger, more extravagant and dangerous… jaw-dropping moments that stand out sharply.”
THE AUSTRALIAN, AUSTRALIA
“contemporary bent on clown, acrobatic, aerial and movement skills is simultaneously humorous and awe-inspiring.”
AUSTRALIAN STAGE, AUSTRALIA
Bess Rowen, Wunderkinder:Circa’s Wunderkammer, Huffingtonpost, New York, published 26 March 2013
Read online here
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 2011, Wunderkammer, The Stage Reviews, published Wednesday 20 July 2011
Read online here
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.
Shawn Katz 2011, A Marvelous Playpen of Wonders, Rover Montreal Arts Uncovered, published 11 July, 2011
Read online here
The young performers in C!RCA’s Wunderkammer are a lot like a group of bohemian loft mates. They like undressing each other. They like standing on each other’s shoulders. They like swinging each other through the air and tossing one friend to the next, much like an afternoon game of beach volleyball. Okay, so they’re not quite your everyday loft mates, but still…there’s something there.
In all seriousness (or some anyway), there’s a youthful jubilance and camaraderie among the twenty-something Wundercast that makes this Australian troupe’s performance practically glow. Their energy and ebullience delights the senses and sets the stage ablaze with a magic that stays with you long after the final bow.
It’s all the magic one would expect from a spectacle with such a name. A Wunderkammer, or Chamber of Wonders, explains Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz, was “an encyclopedic collection in Renaissance Europe of types of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined.” In France, such a room was sometimes known as a cabinet de curiosités.
This concept, writes Lifschitz, was the creative well from which all the acrobats and creators drew their artistic inspiration. And what a triumph: rarely have I seen a show whose final manifestation is as faithful to its creative origins, or whose title so holistically captures its essence and character. The range of eclectic performances runs the gamut from hula hoops, to trapeze duets, to vaudeville and burlesque, to awesome acrobatics, to contemporary dance – and even a segment featuring some Riverdance-tinged playtime, care of a huge sheet of bubble wrap.
In this playpen of wonders and curiosities, each bag of surprises unveils a new toy unlike the last. Each of the players eagerly awaits their turn to show off their latest party trick. Along the way, we come face to face with the beauty of the human body, the warmth of the human heart, and the heights, both literal and figurative, to which both can soar. It would be hard to imagine a more fitting show to launch the second edition of Montreal’s new circus festival, Montréal Complètement Cirque.
This is a spectacle that lifts you up with its lightness, that titillates as much as it entrances, and amuses as much it inspires. There’s comedy and quirk, kindergarten and kink; and throughout it all, a sense that the show is gleefully balanced on a tightrope between multicoloured eclecticism and an easy cohesion – a reminder, perhaps, that it’s all found in the Chamber of Wonders.
If it were up to me, we’d never leave – and every house would have one.
Katherine Ives 2011, Wunderkammer at the Barbican, Hornsey, Crouch End & Muswell Hill Journal, published 25 July 2011
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Extraordinary acrobatics turns circus upside down at the Barbican.
This is no ordinary circus. Nor is it “ordinary” modern circus.
Performed by six breath taking performers from the company Circa, Wunderkammer creates a truly entertaining and enthralling one-and-a-quarter-hours of breathtaking physical achievement.
Anyone who has ever tried to climb a rope will know how much strength and effort is required to hold your own body weight. If you haven’t – try hanging from the door frame and you’ll quickly realise!
Bearing that in mind, the effortless strength, control and grace of the performers is all the more breathtaking.
Outstanding moments were the opening hoop routine – a cross between a ballet and a magic act as the hoops seemed to pass through the performer’s body – and, later on, the solo rope act which defied gravity and logic.
The show melds expert circus skills with gently subversive humour and well-considered music to produce a compelling theatrical experience and visual feast.
Touches of burlesque and even sing-a-long are also thrown into the mix, so just when you think you know what to expect the tables are turned – striptease turns into dressing-up and acrobatics are performed in bright red super-high heels.
By placing circus skills in a theatre environment with carefully designed lighting and integrated music the audience focuses on the detail of the performance and lives each moment.
There’s no drum rolling or hype but audible gasps from a predominantly adult audience echoed around the auditorium throughout the show.
Circa is an Australian company here for a short period of time, but keep your eyes peeled for their next visit.
Neil Boyce 2011, Bypassing the big top, Montreal Mirror, published 14 July, 2011
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Australian company C!RCA define a new era of circus with Wunderkammer
One of the aims of Montréal Complètement Cirque is to show audiences just how distinct “new” circus can be. With their opening show this year, they proved it. It was, as one of the introducers aptly put it, the work of “un talent fou.” Wunderkammer (“cabinet of curiosities”) is the new show by C!RCA, a young Australian group of seven acrobat-based performers under the artistic direction of Yaron Lifschitz. Last here in 2009, they’ll return to TOHU next February after they finish the current fest.
Working without a net and with few props or costumes, their shows fuse ballet, dance and theatre with mind-blowing acrobatic and tumbling work.
Hula hoop gal Freyja Edney—in black, wearing bright red lipstick and a deadpan expression—started the show with a routine of sharp, precise, mechanical doll movements, adding more hoops as she shimmied. But to call it a hula act doesn’t do it justice, or any other part of the show for that matter.
C!RCA have reinvented circus the way Cirque du Soleil did decades ago before they became predictable—but the young company is way cooler. An acrobat stands upright on the head of a fellow performer, walking onto another and continuing as if making her way from stone to stone over a river. Male and female performers are flung like skipping rope, entangling themselves as they’re caught. The beauty of a routine rather than mad skills is where they’re at, but you still shake your head in disbelief.
What stands out is their approach to the male-female dynamic, their inversion of the man-as-forklift in acrobatics. Here, a woman is just as likely to hoist a male performer over her head, or catch him, as the inverse. One moment, a female performer is picked up by the hair and flung about; the next, she’s putting her shoe in a male colleague’s mouth to get a better purchase as she climbs on a trapeze. Our expectations of what male and female bodies are supposed to be capable of or built for is boldly challenged. They turn these notions on their heads, and do so with attitude and irreverence.
Circus-y elements are suppressed. There’s no building a routine to a showstopper, no mugging for an audience. In fact, Wunderkammer parodies it: a male burlesque routine finishes with the performer revealing a torso covered in giant band-aids that he slowly pulls off, wincing, before taking a too-large bow.
They’re very vaudeville, very cabaret in their choice of skimpy underwear, dickey tuxedo fronts, and suit jackets. Much of the show is spent dressing, stripping off and redressing—often while airborne or contorted into a pretzel. They score it with classical and electronic music (there’s a haunting Peter Gabriel tune in there) to great emotive effect.
Even silly circus interludes are rejigged: a sheet of bubble wrap is brought to the front and unrolled with solemnity. A ridiculous faux-tap dance follows with the performer stomping and rolling around on the stuff, even chewing it in his mouth before he’s dragged away.
At other moments, Wunderkammer approaches pure theatre. In the finale, all costumes are gone and the acrobats are in plain black underwear, their bodies showing the red marks, sweat and smeared powder of their to-the-limit exertions as the music dies down and they line up, panting, staring at the audience. There’s silence, then everyone goes nuts.
Olivia Stewart, Wonderful bent, Where silliness and serious skills collide, The Courier Mail, 17 September 2010, p 96
Knowing wunderkammer means “wonder chamber” helps when contemplating Circa’s eclectic world premiere production.
Sitting under the stars in Brisbane Festival’s open-air amphitheatre-style theatre with the towering brick wall of the Powerhouse as its backdrop invites anticipation of something out of the ordinary. And Wunderkammer, a collaboration between Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz and his ensemble of seven, delivers on that – presenting segments from the seriously skilled to the seriously silly.
The juxtaposition works well when the silliness taps into themes of universal identification – such as the urge to pop bubble wrap – with inspired originality.There are also big pay offs when those two approaches are combined in offbeat ways for an added element of risk – balancing on a swinging trapeze perched on just your sitting bones or hanging by your neck is already impressive, without the extra comic and adrenaline factor of removing layers of clothing at the same time.Other feats are truly awe-inspiring without any embellishment. Highlights include the female rope act three storey’s high, amazing acrobatics, tumbling, lifts and throws, human towers and astounding balances transferring weight from one performer to another.
Presented in inventive and unique forms, the strength, control and flexibility displayed by the ensemble – females lifting males as well – is astounding. The cabaret approach is reflected in the musical score (contrasting classical with atmospheric pop arrangements and quirky 1950s and 60s Latin and show tunes), lighting and burlesque costuming. Some skits and elements, however, go out of their way to remind us that this is not the sanitised ‘new circus’ of Cirque du Soleil, upping the risqué factor and delighting in dipping into gross.While Wunderkammer largely delivers on form and entertainment value – drawing a standing ovation from many in the audience – it could have benefited from an objective eye to trim weaker pieces included perhaps more for mood or breathing space than content.
Katherine Lyall-Watson, 2010, Chamber of wonders, ourbrisbane.com, 15 September 2010
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A wunderkammer is a cabinet of curiosities or a chamber of wonders and that’s exactly what Circa presents in its brand new show, premiering at Brisbane Festival.
This is fantastic entertainment: shocking at times, thrilling, sexy, beautiful, moving and captivating throughout. Wunderkammer is the perfect show for the QUT Festival Theatre. The huge wall of the Brisbane Powerhouse is an imposing backdrop and is beautifully lit by Jason Organ to give an urban grunge effect that juxtaposes with the burlesque beautifully.
Yaron Lifschitz has once again done a phenomenal job creating and directing this show. He makes dark and humorous stories from human bodies doing acts that beggar belief. And, for Wunderkammer, he’s been able to work with all the artists in the Circa ensemble, so we have seven fearless performers on stage, each showing absolute focus and commitment to the production.
Wunderkammer is circus mixed with burlesque. The burlesque influence means that stripping is a motif throughout the show, but it’s done so that it confronts or amuses instead of just titillating. (There is no actual nudity on stage, but the performers do get very close to it.) Music is also an integral part of the show and the soundtrack is fabulous.
I was disturbed by a number of the vignettes – but disturbed in a good way: in a way that made me reconsider some of my attitudes and assumptions. One of the most shocking and poignant moments for me was seeing a woman trying to make sound from her body before a man put his hand into her mouth and carried her off stage by her teeth. This could have been the basis of a whole play or book, but the story of the silenced woman was told in a couple of minutes and was all the more harrowing for it.
Don’t be put off by the dark moments: they are counterbalanced by a whole lot of whimsy and beauty. There was laugh out loud humour, audible gasps as acrobats ricocheted off each other and plenty of jaw-dropping feats.
In the course of the performance, you’ll see hula hoops used in a surreal burlesque piece, watch a trapeze duo where the woman wears spiky stiletto heels and see an aerial display that has you white-knuckled for the artist suspended so high against the Powerhouse’s brick wall, with nothing to break her fall. There is high voltage tumbling, some gross business with balloons, lots of stripping and an incredible strong man.
This is sexy, adult circus. If you do take children, be prepared for some frank discussion afterwards.
Wunderkammer played at the QUT Festival Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse, until Saturday 18 September, 2010.
Robbie O’Brien, 2010, Circa’s Wunderkammer, artshub.com.au, 15 September 2010
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Circa has been going from strength to strength of late and the company’s success is one of the highlights of the Brisbane performance scene. With a dedicated ensemble constantly creating new work while still touring extensively, Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz has created a company that should be the envy of performance artists across Australia. ??Their new work, Wunderkammer, is a stunning display of strength and skill put together with a sure artistic hand. The name is a German word that refers to the aristocratic collections of oddities, Cabinets of Wonder, which were precursors to today’s museums. Circa’s production brings together a diverse collection of strange and spectacular elements to create a ‘Wunderkammer’ of their own – busy, loud, careening from the sublime to the ridiculous and all thoroughly entertaining.
I have to admit I’m frustrated by circus that tries too hard to mean something, but Wunderkammer manages to be wonderfully evocative without ever obscuring the immense skill of the performers with forced narrative or symbolism. The theme seems to be sex, love and loneliness with all the attendant beauty, ridiculousness and anguish that can ensue from our romantic relationships but it is underpinned by the physical reality of tumbling, hula hooping, balancing lifting and clowning. The performers seem sometimes desperate for our attention, sometimes resentful of our presence. Through each of the routines they maintain a genuine connection to the audience and give just enough attitude that we connect the reality of their straining muscles with our own, more psychological, struggles.
The routines are genuinely spectacular and, to this relatively uneducated eye, are all highly original which adds greatly to the sense of wonder and danger that circus relies on. A particular highlight for me was Emma McGovern’s corde lisse routine. Suspended in front of the massive exterior wall of the Powerhouse, with Arvo Part’s Tabula Rasa filling the amphitheatre McGovern’s climbing, twisting and falling awoke something in me far beyond delight in her skill or fear that she might fall. On the other end of the spectrum, though equally as entertaining, is Darcy Grant’s bubble wrap routine, which wonderfully taps into one of the most common and absurd pleasures of the modern world.
Overall Lifschitz shows a great eye in handling the sometimes chaotic action on stage, the music is extremely well chosen and Jason Organ’s lighting is dynamic without distracting from the performers. I was especially pleased to see the demanding amphitheatre space handled so well by Lifschitz and the ensemble who positively blasted the large space with energy.
My only qualms with the show are that some of the shorter transition sections fall a little flat and some elements, notably the motion sensors and the microphones, show great promise but don’t really go anywhere. I would have also loved to see the balloons taken further, perhaps blending their new use with more traditional balloon animals.
But these are minor quibbles with a show that is a shining example of what Brisbane artists are capable of and, like all the best circus, will appeal to a very wide audience.
James Harper, 2010, Balancing just one of these acrobats’ talents, The Australian, 17 September 2010
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It was an eye-opener to encounter Circa’s Wunderkammer at the Brisbane Powerhouse outdoor plaza.
Circus cliches that looked as if they were on their last legs a few years ago have mutated. Everything is faster, stronger, more extravagant and dangerous. High heels are popular, especially for walking, climbing and balancing on other people. Group tumbling acts look like leaner, meaner, turbocharged, airborne versions of all-in wrestling.
There are also some jaw-dropping moments that stand out sharply: a high somersault that starts and finishes on another performer’s shoulders; a performer who descends from a long, gruelling aerial routine and then moves immediately to walk on her colleagues’ heads.
Wunderkammer draws on cabaret, vaudeville, burlesque and earlier versions of circus-theatre. But sometimes the different elements don’t fit together so well.
For example, several full-cast numbers draw strongly on the imagery of German cabaret, with the performers – particularly the women – adopting a steely, Teutonic, affectless manner. It undercuts any tendency towards light and shade. And it contrasts awkwardly with the show’s comic interludes, which are as self-consciously daggy as anything dreamed up back in the 1980s by the likes of Los Trios Ringbarkus or the Castanet Club.
Some parts of Wunderkammer combine athleticism with a degree of intimacy, and might better suit a more intimate venue. But the twisting and writhing aerial web solo, high up against the Powerhouse wall, is superb use of the space – which, as it happens, is not all that performance-friendly.
A chill breeze blows through the plaza, providing often scantily clad performers with a further physical challenge to go with the task of maintaining their ferocious concentration.
There is a metaphorical as well as physical chill involved in this circus-cabaret, intertwined with an overt steaminess. Several acts have a hard, voyeuristic edge, embodying intimacy and blankness in, for example, images of people being lifted or moved around by their heads.
Music plays a pivotal role, reflecting director Yaron Lifschitz’s wide-ranging and eclectic tastes, from chamber music and cabaret to cheesy Latin and drum ‘n’ bass.
Several acts are carefully choreographed to musical nuances, though at times a mechanical quality to the execution makes you wonder how well the performers really understand the ebb and flow of the music. But it’s a lot to ask of sinew-straining acrobats that they also be totally comfortable as actors, dancers or musicians. They have enough to think about.
Tessa Leo, 2010, Wunderkammer | Circa, Australian Stage, 15 September 2010
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Circa’s new production comes up trumps in terms of vibrancy, class, and all round ‘wow’ factor.
The company’s Artistic director Yaron Lifschitz is fortunate to have seven exceedingly skilled performers at his disposal. Their contemporary bent on clown, acrobatic, aerial and movement skills is simultaneously humorous and awe-inspiring. There are hints of burlesque and vaudeville but the overbearing aesthetic is modern and fresh, incorporating neon lights, electronic music and infra-red movement sensors creating sounds with body parts(!). Fortunately the show refrains from getting too tech heavy as the majority of the action is created by only the bodies on stage and what can, surprisingly, be done with them.
Each artist’s talent has a chance to shine individually with outstanding tumbling, epic corde lisse (aerial rope), duo and group acrobatics, trapeze and a marvellous bubble-wrap-dancing, leaf-blower-loving clown, played by Darcy Grant. The stage is never left empty and there is often a cavalcade of action happening at once, making the entire spectacle worthy of a second viewing.
The brand spanking, purpose built theatre outside the Powerhouse was a perfect backdrop for the scope of this kind of circus performance. It is a stunning venue, designed by Justin Nardella from Bright Young Things and this show is an ideal way to experience it.
Though by no means plain, Circa’s show has a simplicity behind it that makes for very accessible viewing. There are no implied undertones or unaddressed depths to confuse viewers; the truth of what you see and what you get is laid on the table. Ultimately it is refreshing, fun and hard to fault. If you can only see one show this festival, Wunderkammer is guaranteed not to disappoint.