“…a rare work, as thought-provoking as it is heart-stopping.”
Daily Review, Australia
Yaron Lifschitz and the fearless Circa ensemble have forged a new type of circus. There are no traditional circus acts, no trapezes and not a red nose in sight. Instead, from a world of simple wooden boxes, a hard floor and tall metal structures, the meeting between ourselves and our environment is thrillingly brought to life.
Landscape with Monsters tells the story of post-industrial cities now in decay. Metal and wooden objects intersect with fast-paced acrobatics. This intensely physical new show is at once humorous and brutal, savage and beautiful.
Set to a soundtrack that mixes popular song and electronic music, Landscape with Monsters is bursting with the thrills that are the hallmarks of Circa performances. Emotions and bodies intertwine until we discover the monsters in the landscape just might be ourselves…
World premiere: Wollongong, Australia 2016
Duration: 75 minutes
Touring History: Australia, UK
Ben Neutze, Daily Review “Landscape with Monsters review (Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong)” published March 20, 2016 ★★★★ http://dailyreview.com.au/landscape-with-monsters-review-illawarra-performing-arts-centre-wollongong/39079
You wouldn’t necessarily expect a leading circus arts company like the Brisbane-based Circa to find some of its greatest inspiration in Wollongong, but Landscape with Monsters is a rare work, as thought-provoking as it is heart-stopping.
Directed by Circa’s artistic director Yaron Lifschitz, the show takes its inspiration from the way that humans interact with the natural and built environment, particularly the small coastal NSW city of Wollongong, where manufacturing and industry meet a beautiful natural landscape.
Circa has previously toured to Wollongong, but this work is a co-production between the circus company and Wollongong-based Merrigong Theatre Company. In it, six acrobats work their way through a built space, at first piling on top of, inside of, and hanging off a single, tall timber box.
Having just six performers allows you to really get to know the individuals on-stage — their strengths, their abilities, their sensibilities and their relationships with the other performers. There’s Billie Wilson-Coffey, Kathryn O’Keeffe, and the contortionist Shannon Vitali. The men are Paul O’Keeffe, Rudi Minuer, and, providing the strong, solid base for the other performers, Gerramy Marsden.
Together, they create some extraordinarily striking images, particularly the final one, in which all the bodies come together to form a spectacular human bridge.
Despite the small cast, it’s a very dynamic and varied 75 minutes of performance — in moments full of intense danger, in others playfully funny, and in others lightly romantic.
There are no traditional circus apparatuses in Landscape with Monsters, and the show feels richer and far more inventive for it. Most of the show is performed with just boxes (I’m reminded of when you buy a child an extravagant toy in a big cardboard box and they just end up playing with and inventing worlds within the cardboard box), but there’s also a huge ladder, some planks upon which the performers balance, and a simple steel lighting truss, all designed by Jason Organ.
Darryl Wallis’s sound design is an engrossing mix of industrial sounds and recognisable popular melodies, including David Bowie’s Heroes and several iterations of Quizás, quizás, quizás (popularised by Doris Day as Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps). Toby Knyvett’s lighting traces the dynamics of the performers perfectly, while his minimal but attractive projections provide punctuation with images of built environments and manufacturing.
There’s an intriguing relationship between the way the bodies of performers are used in acrobatics and the way the bodies of workers are used in a traditionally industrial city like Wollongong. While the outcome of these two bodily pursuits are completely different, bodies are stretched and used, and placed in some degree of danger in both to create something greater.
And there are moments in Landscape with Monsters that feel more genuinely dangerous than anything I’ve seen from Circa before — especially when you consider that this production is performed on a hard floor. There’s a sequence in which two performers precariously balances a massive steel ladder over another performer’s head. It’s hard to not be reminded that you’re in a city which has had its fair share of devastating industrial accidents (quite a few of them involving steelworkers having some body part crushed).
While it was only appropriate that this show premiere in Wollongong, it deserves to be seen all around the country. It’s already programmed for the Latitude Festival in the UK, but here’s hoping it will pop up at some Australian festivals in the next few years. It’s the best I’ve seen from Circa.
David Ralf, Exeunt Magazine, UK “Review: Landscape with Monsters at Latitude” published July 22, 2016 http://exeuntmagazine.com/reviews/review-landscape-monsters-latitude/
Circa’s new show, premiering in the UK at Latitude Festival reminds me of nothing so much as the Lyric’s Secret Theatre company’s Show 5: A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts. The primary difference is that the tasks of the latter were small scale, low stakes ‘impossibilities’ – eating a lemon, hiding in a suitcase. In Landscape With Monsters they are circus feats – balances and lifts, climbs and holds. But they carry the same feeling of unpredictable urgency and anxiety that the 20-something Secret Theatre used to speak eloquently about growing up as a series of near impossible challenges.
In C!RCA’s hands this nervous energy keeps you on the edge of your seat through scenes that are markedly political. Rather than that swan-like quality of some acrobatic performance which hides effort, every shaking muscle, wobble and sweating brow is on show. This is hard work in a harsh world, populated with massive, heavy ladders and beams, wooden crates that hide bodies and have limited room. Rooted in each individual performer’s relationship to their fellows and to the world, the routines pit them against each other, in a race to the top, or a struggle for personal space and self-definition. There is not enough room for everyone on top of that crate or in that box. Something has to give.
Landscape With Monsters also forces the performer-characters to collaborate – finding workarounds and supporting each other to navigate massive set items – everything seems to dwarf the performers. The design is informed by and designed to reflect an industrial backdrop, pitting the landscape against its inhabitants who seem so fragile by comparison. Of course, naturally, they must work together. How could they not?
Their closeness as an ensemble is striking when something goes wrong: a see-sawing beam spins out of place and each performer – both on the beam and off – yell “No!” in unison and spring forward to steady the apparatus. But the piece never lets up in putting its performers’ heads between the lion’s jaws – or under a falling A-frame ladder. A heart-stopping series of feats with incredible variety and charm, Landscape With Monsters is the finest piece of circus I’ve ever seen, but it is also clear and compelling drama.
Kris Hallett, The Reviews Hub, UK “Latitude 2016: Circa Landscape with Monsters” published July 22, 2016 ★★★★ http://www.thereviewshub.com/latitude-2016-circa-landscape-with-monsters/
The relationship between man , nature and industry and is at the heart of Circa ‘s Landscape With Monsters, making its UK debut at this year’s Latitude. Taking inspiration from an industrial town called
Taking inspiration from an industrial town called Wollongon, a place where the company have toured previously, an area where the toughness of industry and man-made architecture co-exists with the natural beauty of the landscape. It is a place where bodies are shaped by hard work and which can only work with a perfect balancing of both competing interests. Visually this six strong company show this in their physically daring and often breathtaking work; bodies, ladders, boxes and planks are used to balance precariously off. At one moment a human bridge is created, the end achievement of mans work.
It takes a while to warm up, the early moments as they cram themselves into boxes too small for them and achieve perfect balance is interesting rather than pulse raising, but as someone who suffers from acrophobia, the moment when a sky high ladder is produced and a man climbs it without use of his hands had this reviewer mesmerised and holding his breath. There is a real sense of genuine danger, the self-same ladder is dangled precariously inches from a performers face at one point, a sign that tough industrial jobs still have a risk attached to them that those of us who work behind a keyboard couldn’t even begin to imagine.
A circus show that combines spectacle, danger and brains, Landscape With Monsters receives the first standing ovation of this festival. A jolt of adrenaline on the first official morning.
A Circa and Merrigong Theatre Company Co-Production
Director Yaron Lifschitz
Sound Designer Daryl Wallis
Lighting and AV Design Toby Knyvett
Technical Director /Lighting Designer Jason Organ
Set and Circus Apparatus Design 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, and the NSW government through Arts NSW. This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Ministry for the Arts’ Catalyst—Australian Arts and Culture Fund.