Georgia Symons | ArtsHub | Friday 1 April, 2016

Photo by Darcy Grant

Circus is the ultimate live performance. Live in the sense that you know that what you’re watching is really happening, and could go drastically wrong at any minute. It’s this compelling liveness that has kept audiences coming back throughout the centuries. Flying Fruit Fly Circus’ Stunt Lounge revels in this liveness and danger. The five performers on stage are skilled – this much is impossible to deny. But they are also young people working in an art form that can only be mastered by slavish practice over long periods of time. There were plenty of stumbles and missteps in this work, but these only made the performance more compelling. For an hour, we watched five young people relentlessly test the limits of their bodies.

The piece clearly and joyfully explores the experiences of these five young people as young adults and as circus performers. Sometimes the metaphors are explicit – one performer is made to “jump through hoops” by his peers. At other times – particularly in many of the work’s solo pieces – the mere spectacle of watching these young bodies performing such rigorously practiced and perfected tasks is a captivating juxtaposition.

I’m always surprised by the capacity of circus arts for immense emotional and physical affect on the audience’s bodies, but there were two of the vignettes that left me breathless. Teagan Leslie’s solo straps routine was chilling. Her body rotates in the middle of the air, hanging first from the hips and then from the neck. This solo delves much deeper than the simple sexual allure of so many aerial routines; Leslie’s strength and fragility collide to conjure much darker connotations around this hanging body. The show also included a heartwarming duet from AJ Saltalamacchia and Jess Mews. The pair have found beautifully unexpected was of combining his acrobatics and her hooping skills to paint a breathtaking portrait of young love.

This piece is all about young bodies being tested – by one another and by their world. It doesn’t have a through-line or narrative to follow, and the timing or placement of each vignette within the piece doesn’t always feel deeply considered. The piece also leans quite heavily on overly sentimental music, which prevents us from truly hearing the performers and their bodies on stage. But these are small quibbles about what was ultimately a brilliantly entertaining and affecting show. I look forward to seeing where these graduates of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus go next.

4 out of 5 stars

Stunt Lounge
The Flying Fruit Fly Circus
Director: Darcy Grant
Cast: AJ Saltalamacchia, Jess Mews, Teagan Leslie, Jackson Manson, Zachariah Johnson

Arts Centre Melbourne
30 March – 9 April

IMAGE CREDIT: Via ArtsHub, Photo by Darcy Grant