Just another dance show? Mark Ward thought so, but he couldn't have been more wrong
Circa, by the Australian production company of the same name, is a remix of three previous works that have toured the globe to rapturous acclaim. Minutes into Yaron Lifschitz’s show it’s very easy to see why.
The term 'dance' doesn’t quite seem to cover it. To say that it is a movement piece goes part of the way, but it’s not until the show really starts to hit its stride that the audience can see that the performances originate from circus skills. When most people think of the circus, one tends to think of clowns and strongmen - these performers are both, but first and foremost they are highly-trained acrobats.
Without wanting to spoil too many surprises, the performers do the most amazing things involving impossible balancing and dangerous rope acrobatics. All this being delivered without a word being uttered is one of the most powerful aspects of the show. The thought of a silent hour and a half show without dialogue seemed daunting, instead it liberates.
The audience gasp one moment at an incredible physical feat, then is moved the next at one of the touching sequences. The performance has its own language and cohesive narrative that is direct and powerful.
The slightest touches between characters creates images using their hands or limbs. For a fleeting moment, impassioned looks portray everything that we need to know about the scene at hand. It is said you can cut a whole section of dialogue and replace it with a single gesture, Circa is chock-full of gorgeous touches that fit this adage.
There are also set pieces that seemed both epic and intimate. These are greatly enhanced by subtle lighting and clever use of soundtrack throughout the show. The music used ranges from Aphex Twin to Jacques Brel, adding a whole new layer. While self-contained, and viewable as such, the set-pieces speak to a larger narrative that is never far from sight.
Physically the largest performer on the stage, Scott Grove is outstanding in his solo piece, where he preens and shows off like a bodybuilder, chasing the spotlight around the stage. There is plenty of this type of wry commentary and you can follow the threads through the show, or just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of it all.
The next piece is a real jaw-dropper, with a female performer taking charge with aggression and dominance, walks in heels across a male performer, along to a female-led cover of Radiohead's 'Paranoid Android'. The audience try not to watch, but can't look away.
In a show filled with some unbelievable highlights, one of the most affecting is when one performer hooks his hand inside his partner's mouth, lifting her up by her upper jaw. There were sharp intakes of breath all over the theatre.
Throughout the performance there is no dip in the quality, the spectacle, or the energy. Whether it is the elaborate hula-hooping, a dancer balancing entirely on a couple of splayed fingers or the complex and endlessly mutating stage pictures that Lifschitz creates, the audience at Circa are never anything but utterly hooked.