Wednesday 21 February 2018

Bending both bones and rules with mixed results

Sophie Gorman

Gaiety Theatre

AUSTRALIAN contemporary circus group Circa bend genres as much as they impossibly bend bones. The opening act for the 56th Dublin Theatre Festival, it merges acrobatics, contemporary dance, cabaret, burlesque, comedy and the most physically defying feats. The one thing it doesn't really do is theatre.

The title 'Wunderkammer' loosely translates as "chamber of wonders", and there is much wonder and awe at what these human bodies are able to do. A series of unconnected scenes are performed by a cast of three women and four men. There is little narrative and no character development, but each performer brings their own personality to bear, so we have the soulful trapeze artist, the cheeky chappie busking muscle man, the impossibly strong woman who can balance the burly man standing on her head.

The opening hula-hoop number sets the bar. A woman spins metal rings around her like a magician, playing tricks with our eyes as the rings appears to bend and turn her into a human slinky.

A man dressed in almost military attire ambles up a vertical Chinese pole. High up the pole, he straddles it, holding himself horizontal, gripping with his inner thighs while another man stands upright on top of him, as if waiting for a bus.

They intertwine parkour free-running moves from the street with the most poetic ballet, and the results are quite the most remarkable you will see. There is a sense of story to this scene, such exquisite beauty, impossible control as they fall in slow motion only to catch each other before they land.


Of course, the troupe need to take rests from all the extreme activity and there are some filler numbers, and some often awkward but occasionally successful attempts at humour. A girl unfurls a carpet of bubble wrap and tries to walk across it without popping, but soon gives in and rolls around in it intoxicated by the sounds.

However, there is one major hesitation. Does this have to have the regular element of sexy striptease? It serves only to distract.

We don't need tasselled breasts when we have men who can catch each other with just their outstretched feet or a woman who can hold two other women on her shoulders as if they are waltzing. This is what produces reaction, this is what holds the breath and elicits involuntary gasps.

Irish Independent

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