Udderbelly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 14th August 2016
In 2013, Circa won a Total Theatre ‘Significant Contribution’ Award at Edinburgh Fringe, for pushing the boundaries of what 21st Century circus can look like. Their offering this year, Closer, takes some of the material from last year’s Close Up, and repackages it into a fine example of classic Circa that, whilst not expanding into new territories, showcases what the company do best.
Flowing sequences of high level acrobatics and lyrical solo routines allow the audience to indulge in that favorite circus occupation of objectififying the bodies on stage as sexual icons. Tricks and interactions let us see the value of human support and connection, and facets of relationships that emerge naturally from the technique. Closer may not be adding anything new to the oeuvre but, in a move away from the more challenging aspects of Close Up, is a consolidation of the sterling Circa brand.
Black costumes are functional and almost featureless; a tuxedo stripe on the men’s trousers and sheer side panels in the women’s leotards give a subtle nod to glamour, and to the social dance that informs an early acrobatic choreography and the later audience involvement, when dancing partners are seduced from their seats onto the stage.
The music ranges through Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang, an instrumental version of Oasis’ Champagne Supernova, and more obscure findings. Distortions of sound give a sense of discomfort to the unrushed and steadily clambering trapeze number from Jarred Dewey and Kimberley O’Brien. The vibrations and the bass during Daniel O’Brien’s hand-balance act are agitating, layering sensation over his unusual sequence of inverted mounts and dismounts between the balance canes and floor.
Throughout, the performers emerge from their routines with a ‘what just happened’ look upon their faces, and the overall feel is more the unsettled enigma of Beyond than last year’s chirpy, down-to-earth Close Up. I enjoy the restrained pace and sparse, edited feel of the show, but am aware that, tonight, Lisa Goldsworthy is not taking part due to injury, and wonder how much her absence contributes to this.
The fifth cast member is Lauren Herley who, once the initial group sequence of gestural choreography dissipates, finds herself roped to a chair by the other performers. This start leads into a corde lisse routine that combines quickfire, powerful climbs and drops with slow contorting holds, which often rely on her strength rather than the rope’s friction.
‘Closer’ by Circa IMAGE: Luke MacGregor
A sequence of walking over each other’s bodies is delicately done, focusing on the soft pads of hands, soles of feet, and inner thighs. Simple group acrobalance poses are achieved through extreme developments of entering and exiting the structures dynamically. Kimberley O’Brien performs on aerial stirrups with sudden and surprising drops through the cracks (and has a big ol’ overspilt on her). Dewey makes beautiful and impressive shapes on the static trapeze that stem from and lead back into sign-singing gestures – a delightful development for circus access when music often contributes so heavily to the overall reception of a piece of work.
A tower of chairs, built over each others’ bodies like in Close Up, is given a shove that sends them hurtling into the waiting hands of the company in a satisfying release of tension and, with that, the show ends. Once again, Circa offer us 65 minutes of impeccable technique, in an enjoyable display of human grace, strength and frailty.