Wunderkammer: Thrills, spills and belly laughs in a show that will leave you dizzy
Australian company Circa’s athletic theatre is humorous and dangerous
The feeling you get from Circa is not of a group of performers going through a fixed set of routines. Instead, they are drawing on an enormous back catalogue of abilities, riffing through their complex choreography
* * * * *
Circa begin unpacking their Wunderkammer in slightly subtle fashion – two performers on stage take turns spinning a hula hoop with tricks that go awry to apologetic shakes of their heads. However, it isn’t long before the full seven-strong ensemble is leaping from the wings, twisting through the air with elegant violence. This cabinet of curiosities is packed with thrilling potential.
This Australian contemporary circus group seems to be the best in the athletic-theatre business. The individual performances are impressive, but the ensemble pieces are astonishing. The cast whirl about each other, men and women flying through the air or locking hands and feet to form synchronised cogs of human clockwork. At one early point, the performers flip and turn about the stage, like well-practised divers missing a swimming pool, while others fling themselves to the floor from each other’s shoulders, with only the gasps of the crowd to cushion their fall.
The highlight of the show involves Lewis West, Todd Kilby and a centre-stage pole, which they walk up as if it’s horizontal. Dressed in military-esque uniforms, they could be depicting two comrades in arms, battling through a war with only each other for support; or perhaps they are climbers, dragging each other up and down a mountain, inch by agonising inch. One performer supports the weight of two with just his feet wrapped around the pole; they hang individually vertical, like human flags frozen in a sudden, stiff breeze. They tumble down and, it seems, up the rope, leaping over each other in mid-air in the process . And then they move at a glacial pace, drawing the whole thing down to a slow fermatic drag. It’s bewildering, balletic and, played out to Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, beautiful to watch.
The feeling you get from Circa is not of a group of performers going through a fixed set of routines. Instead, they are drawing on an enormous back catalogue of abilities, riffing through their complex choreography as the show moves on. Some of the best individual tricks are performed just once, so blink and you’ll certainly miss them.
There’s plenty of humour – a brilliant hula-hoop section ends with Freyja Edney stacked tall and twisting like a human double helix – but there is much more danger. As the show progresses, the knife edge between spectacular success and painful failure is sharpened to a keener edge.
Get a ticket but ask for a discount – you’ll only be using the edge of your seat. Ends Sunday