Subscribe to enews

Il Ritorno

“… a powerful vision of humanity and compassion.”

The Australian, Australia

A powerful physical poem of absence and separation. Against a stark black wall, acrobats strive to connect with each other, while music from Monteverdi’s opera Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria is played and sung by a live chamber ensemble.

Akin to a physical poem, the staging sees seven highly skilled artists precariously lift, hold, levitate and fall, their movements driven by the forces of desire, devastation and absence. At the core of this show is the hunger to return home – saturated with loss and war, powered by longing and haunted by the past.


World premiere: Brisbane, Australia 2015
Performers: 13 (7 acrobats, 2 singers, 4 musicians)
Duration: 75 minutes
Touring History: Australia, Germany, UK, France, Luxembourg, Canada


✮✮✮✮✮ Lyn Gardner, The Guardian UK ‘I’ve seldom seen such grief on stage’ published January 29, 2016

When the allied forces liberated Auschwitz and the concentration camps of Europe, they discovered horrors unbearable to describe and too challenging to show to the public back home. The Australian circus company Circa shirk nothing in this devastating and yet utterly restrained 65-minute piece in which the experiences of refugees echoes through the centuries, from the Trojan wars to the current crisis in Europe.

The Return has a timeless quality, as movement melds with live music, including excerpts from Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, Mahler, folk songs and something harder and more industrial. The piece reverberates with real emotional pungency, as if the essence of homesickness has been bottled. I’ve seen grief many times on stage, but seldom have I seen it depicted so well; that poleaxed moment when the world tilts, and your legs are cut from under you as if all the bones have been removed. The way grief becomes internalised in hunched shoulders and twisted limbs.

In the opening moments the cast of six shuffle across the stage, involuntarily stopping and starting again, sometimes falling across the stage and hitting it with an appalling thud as if they can no longer put out their arms to save themselves. They are like strange misshapen creatures who hardly seem human. But it is their desperate, flawed humanity that is gradually revealed, as they constantly pick themselves up and carry on. Sometimes they trample over each other; sometimes they co-operate, playing to each other’s strength. Roles are reversed, with women carrying the weight on their shoulders.

The show has a sculptural quality. A woman twists in a turning cube as if trying to escape a cell. Straps hang down like a swinging noose. Throughout, the performers seem to be stalked by their own shadows, sometimes desperately attempting to follow the light, and constantly staring out into the darkness as if witnessing some appalling catastrophe or looking across the seas like Penelope awaiting Odysseus’s return. The wall behind them represents many: the Berlin Wall, the West Bank barrier, the walls that trap and separate us from each other. The voice of Penelope rises like a wail and floats across the auditorium, filling it with longing; the lights fade and the displaced disappear from view. But they are still there: out of sight and out of mind, endlessly trudging onwards and longing for a place called home.


Created by Yaron Lifschitz with the Circa Ensemble

Director Yaron Lifschitz
Composers John Barber, Quincy Grant, Jakub Jankowski, Claudio Monteverdi, Cornel Wilczek
Musical supervisor and arranger Quincy Grant
Musical Director Natalie Murray Beale
Technical Director /Lighting Designer Jason Organ
Stage Design Yaron Lifschitz, Jason Organ
Costume Design Libby McDonnell

International Representation
Wolfgang Hoffmann / Aurora Nova (Worldwide, except territories below)
David Lieberman / David Lieberman Artists’ Representatives (USA, South America, Canada)
Danielle Kellie / Circa (Australia / New Zealand)
Yaron Lifschitz / Circa (New Creations / Collaborations / Big Dreams)

ll Ritorno is co-comissioned by Brisbane Festival, The Barbican, Les Nuits de Fourvière, Espace Jean Legendre, Théâtre de Compiègne – Scène nationale de l’Oise en prefiguration, Dusseldorf Festival and Les Théâtres de la ville de Luxembourg and was first presented at the Brisbane Festival. 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. Circa received funds from Creative Partnerships Australia and Danielle and Daniel Besen Foundation towards the creation of Il Ritorno

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. 

Presenter Downloads

Please request your download password from Circa.