Last night we had an adult family night at the circus. Circa, Australia’s “Nouvelle ” circus played to a engrossed, deeply appreciative audience at the Flynn Center. Circa is a troop of young Australian men and women who create circus from acrobatics, physical theatre, gymnastics and dance.
On their website they write:
At Circa we create circus that moves the heart, mind and soul. We discover, cultivate and present works and experiences from the living heart of circus – vital, challenging and delightful. We believe circus is a rich artistic territory that can deeply touch audiences and participants. To achieve this, we progress with ceaseless inventiveness (in all aspects of our art and operations) guided by safe danger and fuelled by love and respect.
Oddly, the strong themes that rose to the fore for me, as I watched the show last night, were violence and sexuality. Their presence seemed to permeate the emotional world of the show. I was reminded of the violence that seems to underlay much of relationship among the young, especially as portrayed in the popular media. I was also reminded of the classic Australian film, Walkabout.
I was also struck by the absence of an easily identified core narrative, a hallmark of much “new” circus. Rather, the show was composed of a series of vignettes, connected more by emotional tone,and performance style, than by narrative thrust. Still, there were many moments of high artistry and great emotional intensity.
One segment stole the hearts of the audience. A performer stood alone at the front of the stage, and used his hands as remarkably expressive puppets. One young boy in the audience began to laugh. His expressive hoots and belly laughter swept through the theater, capturing the entire audience in his delight! The actor rode the boy’s joy, creating a spellbinding moment from a routine combining physical clowning and puppetry.
If there was something missing, it was the presence of Aboriginal performers. The material seemed to refer to the mythic worlds of Australia’s many Indigenous people, as well, perhaps, as Australia’s violence colonial history. Yet, judging from the website, there appear to be no Aboriginals in the troop. This seems problematic, given Australia’s many fine Aboriginal artists.
Circa is headed West before going home. If they are coming to your community, see them. If you see them, tell me what you make of the performance.