Circus can make bodies invisibly strong, with performers’ slim frames concealing their role as struts, bases, props or bridges. Australian company Circa celebrate this strength, but also the physical and mental pain that comes with it. This heartfelt performance emphasises the rich emotional bonds between performers, who build friendships as well as shapes with their bodies.
Some moments are familiar from their previous shows, like the painfully fragile tower of chairs that first aired in last year’s Close Up. But this time round, they’ve stripped each set piece of every trace of gimmickry. They’ve discarded their huge animal heads or slick projected backdrops in a bid to create real intimacy: and, even inside the huge yawning belly of Underbelly’s purple cow, it pays off.
They perform a pared-down repertoire of trapeze, rope work, hand balancing and tumbling to a pop soundtrack heavy on sappy romantic ballads, nostalgic hits and anthems to friendship. And the troupe echo these themes in weird, intense physical displays of love, including a horizontal group hug that balances precariously in the space between two wooden chairs.
It’s a physical demonstration of the phrase ‘tough love’, where strong bodies express feelings that are painful, as well as cosy. But there’s plenty of joy, too. They bring a cautious handful of audience members onto the stage for a kind of circusy speed dating session. Each audience member sits next to a performer, who flirts with them like they’re couples at the back of the cinema, then abandons coyness in favour of acrobatic leaps and affectionate waltzing.
Circa are wooing the audience, as much as they’re wooing each other. And this flawless production makes them utterly irresistible.