Van Badham | The Guardian |  Thursday 19 February 2015

Circa’s Beyond: a daringly feminist show – 5 stars!

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Circa isn’t the little Australian circus company that could, so much as the company than can, does and will. From its base in Queensland, the company has toured productions to 30 countries, gaining the praise of critics as well as the kind of loyal audience whose attendances encourage the development of tricks and shows.

It is so well-deserved. Circa established its reputation through making a kind of circus that played up to the adult connotations of the form. Stylistically influenced by neo-burlesque, its performers have appeared in variations on the theme of lingerie rather than leotards, engaged their acrobatics as a form of playful public flirtation, and explored the socio-sexual symbolism of objects – most famously, a pair of red high-heeled shoes – even as they tumbled and turned.

Beyond is an evolution of what is Circa’s already sophisticated practice and the symbolic objects in play this time are giant fluffy cartoon animal heads, worn at times by performers whose gestures are often more animalistic without them. On a playing space made up of definitively theatrical red velvet curtains and a series of small stages under the Regal Theatre’s old proscenium arch, the thematic explored is how playing social “roles” can liberate and restrict.

It’s a pointed observation in the context of what becomes very apparent in Beyond’s opening minutes in a daringly feminist show. Here, a female acrobat as indistinguishably lovely as any other is suddenly balancing a man on her shoulders – then, within seconds, she’s balancing two.

What follows is a procession of stage encounters that upend our expectation of who gets to be strong, tough, brave or capable in the circus, as Circa’s female artists deconstruct their skeletons in midair, leap across poles wearing blindfolds, solve Rubik’s cubes in the middle of multi-person balances and support male performers walking across their legs while they do the upside-down splits.

It is eye-goggling to watch, its feats of female physical resilience juxtaposed with acts of male balletic grace as well as tender slapstick, the male performers demonstrating that the more committed you are to your costume, the harder the tasks that should define you become. And there are, of course, plenty of tumbles and leaps along the way.

With Circa’s signature eclectic music choices ranging from Nat King Cole to contemporary electronica, it’s unpredictably excellent fun. With five curtain calls and women in the audience on their feet cheering at the end, I’m certainly not the only person who thought so.

  • Beyond is at Perth festival until 21 February, before touring to Canberra Theatre Centre; 10 Days on the Island festival, Tasmania; NORPA, Lismore; Whitehorse Centre, Nunawadding; and Civic Centre, Newcastle

 

IMAGE: ‘Beyond’ by Circa, image via Arts Hub
ORIGINAL SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/feb/19/circa-beyond-review-this-is-what-feminist-circus-looks-like?CMP=share_btn_fb