Director: Yaron Lifschitz
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
To misquote the famous song, if you go down to the gardens today you’re in for a big surprise. Forget teddy bears having a picnic, here, thanks to Melbourne-based Circa, the bears are performing daredevil acrobatics atop a giant pole while life-sized rabbits perform mind-blowing feats of contortion.
It may sound like some hallucinogenic dream and, indeed, it is in many ways a dreamlike experience, but Circa’s latest virtuoso show explores the animal instinct in us all and that primeval need to explore an play.
While the animalistic framework is there, however, and provides a context and recurring visual motif, it is somewhat secondary to the troupe’s trademark exploration of physical dexterity and endurance.
More intimate than fellow Norfolk and Norwich Festival piece How Like An Angel, less brutal than 2012’s self-titled Circa, Beyond mixes aerial work, balancing, contortion, acrobatics, dance and a surprisingly hefty sprinkling of comedy.
What lifts Circa above (no pun intended) other circus and acrobatic groups is their focus on integrating character into the spectacle. Each scene has readily identifiable characters, emotions clearly portrayed, even when faces are contorted with concentration or pain.
There’s also a strong sense here of the sensual, an unspoken longing conveyed through touch, grip and the intertwining of bodies.It’s an intertwining though that stretches the limit of what is humanly possible-bodies tumbling, stretching and balancing in a series of breath-taking set pieces and tableaux.
While How Like An Angel allowed some close up viewing of the work, beyond takes us a step further, the intimate setting of the Spiegeltent sees viewers witnessing the spectacle mere inches away from the performers, a rush of air as hands a feet blur in front of your face.
There is a strong ensemble at work here (Rowan Heydon-White, Bridie Hooper, Gerramy Marsden, Paul O’Keeffe, Skip Walker-Milne and Billie Wilson-Coffey), working as a cohesive whole before stepping out into the solo spotlight when required.
Yaron Lifschitz’s production cleverly balances the group spectacle with the small scale, all accompanied by an inspired musical soundtrack that journeys from big band swing, via Bonnie Tyler to Heavy Metal.
Impressive as the overall whole is, there are inevitably moments that linger long in the memory. O’Keeffe and Heydon-White’s sensual trapeze ballet, and Walker-Milne’s charming teddy bear-clad pole work provide key visual hooks. Indeed Heydon-White’s skills seem to know no bounds, managing to solve a Rubik’s Cube while undertaking an acrobatic routine.
As the evening’s props are piled high in a game of human Buckaroo the strains of To Dream The Impossible Dream fill the auditorium. It’s hard to think of a more apt theme song for this remarkable troupe, who take their audience on a thrilling exploration into the potential of the human form when we only dare to dream. Simply stunning.
Runs at 25 May then transfers to London’s Southbank
Photo: Benjamin Knapton