Director: Bibi and Bichu Ltd
Derartu Tulu was the first black African woman to earn an Olympic medal. She won gold at the 1992 and 2000 Olympic games in the 10,000m race, proving to be a fierce competitor and example of the impressive capability of the human body. 30 years later, Ethiopian circus company, Circus Abyssinia, is following her legacy.
Established from the combined efforts of two Ethiopian juggling brothers (Bibi and Bichu Tesfamariam) and an emerging Ethiopian circus school (Circus Wingate), Circus Abyssinia was born. Their first show was all about the dream of joining the circus – something which previously seemed impossible due to Ethiopia’s lack of circus background. After international tours with widespread success, they are back with a new show.
As the lights go down, a figure jogs across the edge of the stage. An announcer can be heard, describing Tulu’s epic 1992 race. The first act is an impressive blend of contortion and hand balancing, seeming to be Tulu’s training and dedication to the race. The second act is a celebration – this is how it must feel for her to win. Tulu and a group of men dance, throw each other into the air at daring heights, and encourage the audience to join in the celebration.
This show is full of increasingly impressive acts. From contortionists balancing on top of each other to fire juggling, the surprises just keep coming. The older performers show excellent control and undeniable strength; from a performance on straps to hand balances at height, their work is flawless.
There is a younger group of men who feature. Their group cohesion, care for each other, and obvious enjoyment is joyful. It appears they’re somewhat still in training, and that eager, jovial energy is an exciting addition to this piece.
Although the cast are working incredibly hard, they enjoy what they do and encourage the audience to enjoy too. Fringe audiences can be unpredictable, but it must be impossible to resist clapping and cheering along with these performers. Beautiful, mesmerising, and exuberant, Circus Abyssinia: Tulu is the circus show to see.
Runs at Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows – The Lafayette until 27 August 2022