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Circa: Humans

Updated: May 28, 2021

Yaron Lifschitz


Lowry Quays

16-17 September 2019; 1hr 10min

Circa: Humans  c Pedro Greig
Circa: awesome skills. All pics: Pedro Greig

Based in Brisbane, Australia, Circa fuses acrobatics, gymnastics, tumbling, dance and more besides, in a breathtaking theatrical update of the whole gamut of circus physical skills.

They’ve a set of programmes to offer, on different levels, and this one, characterised as "a love letter to our species", is spectacular – faster, harder and higher than ever before (as it says in the blurb), making you startlingly aware of just what incredible things can be done with the human body and by humans working together.

At its best it’s on the same level as a ballet: every step and movement thought out, rehearsed and meticulously executed. The music sequence, changing tempi, style and atmosphere, make for that kind of immersive experience, too, where skill becomes art.

It’s also a display of feats of strength, balance, suppleness and sheer daring, where the only sounds that really count are the barked commands from performer to performer to make sure the timing’s just right.

It begins, pointedly, with performers on stage getting into their clothing and piling up the everyday gear they’ve taken off. Then, surprisingly, one of the piles of clothes moves and a human emerges from the shed garments like a butterfly from its chrysalis. That’s a powerful symbol and gives substance to the exploration of physical possibilities that follows.

The scenario seems to be that we’re seeing the performers take themselves to their very limits – to the summit of their potential. Then there’s a sequence where they are seen, all too obviously, attempting the impossible and expressing the frustration that comes with that.

But performers don’t like being seen to fail… like dancers displaying "clumsy" steps, they want you to know that what goes"‘wrong"’ goes wrong deliberately – and just as artistically as what goes right.

Which brings me to the only disappointment in a show whose visual effect is simply overwhelming: the supposition that it tells us something deeply true about the human condition.

That’s overblowing it a bit. Humans are extraordinary animals, but there’s much more to being human than that.


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