Landscape With Monsters

Yaron Lifschitz and The Circa Ensemble

The Circa Ensemble

Latitude Festival

From 14 July 2016 to 17 July 2016

Review by David Chadderton

The recent renaissance in circus has produced shows ranging from lavish and expensive spectaculars from the likes of Cirque du Soleil to those featuring performers in everyday clothes displaying amazing acrobatic feats with familiar objects, such as this from Brisbane-based Circa.

According to the festival brochure, this is “a physical symphony to the joyous complexity of being human” which “inhabits the emotional highs and lows of a place faced with uncertainty.” You’d be doing well to get that much from it without reading the programme, but that is not to take anything away from the skill, commitment and slick production of this fascinating combination of acrobatics with contemporary dance.

After an initial physical duet, the main section involves six performers and a collection of open boxes, which are climbed, stacked precariously (then climbed), carried, slid and thrown about—sometimes with people in them. Some sections seem like games, like climbing around the box without touching the ground or trying to get the whole company on top of the box or, sometimes, inside it.

However, these are performed with such emotional intensity that they always seem to hint at a deeper meaning than just showing off; what this meaning is is never spelled out explicitly. There are some quite touching moments, such as when the girl trying to get out of the box puts her hand around the outside and it is spotted by a boy, producing a close bond just for a few moments.

Later on, it becomes more like traditional circus in that a difficult feat is performed slowly and the performer smiles at the audience for acknowledgement when it has been achieved. These feats include a girl in ballet shoes climbing up a very unstable-looking pile of boxes en pointe, and some incredible displays of balance and strength with a huge ladder.

While the section with the boxes is a little long and starts to become a bit repetitive, it’s worth sticking around for these amazing later scenes. While there is no obvious narrative thread, the emotion with which it is all played does transmit to the audience to make it feel like there is a much deeper layer than the surface acrobatics, even if it isn’t clear what exactly this is.