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Circa: Closer review at Udderbelly, Southbank Centre – ‘skill and grace’

A scene from Circa's Closer at the Underbelly, Southbank Centre, London. Photo: Luke MacGregor A scene from Circa's Closer at the Underbelly, Southbank Centre, London. Photo: Luke MacGregor

At the Edinburgh Fringe 2015, Circa staged Close Up, a show to pull back the curtain on circus. But from its Calvin Klein-style film inserts to its scripted narration, it sometimes proved distancing. So they took a step back and reworked the premise from the ground up.

Billing it as a premiere isn’t false advertising, because the changes aren’t just cosmetic. With the exception of the two best set-pieces carried over – a hula-hoop extravaganza and nerve-wracking chair-tower gymnastics – the resulting show innovates on many fronts.

Gone are the video screens, replaced by feats capitalising on the intimacy of the purple cow (where the show is playing as part of the Udderbelly Festival). Director Yaron Lifschitz gives us foot-lit rope and stilt acts that have an almost plaintive, silent-movie feel. There’s comedy, as well as skill and grace, here.

If anything jars, it’s a bout of audience-participatory karaoke towards the end. It’s an awkward placeholder that feels like a stage-managed hangover from last year. Closer definitely doesn’t need to strain to keep its audience engaged.

What Circa translates particularly well is the strength of the relationships in successful circus acts. Lisa Goldsworthy and Lauren Herley’s collaborative stilt performance is a standout, succeeding in mixing intense concentration with embrace-like tenderness.

Now, the emphasis is on doing rather than telling. London newcomer Jarred Dewey’s trapeze-hanging mime to Oasis’s Champagne Supernova is a light and lovely thing, fusing clowning and circus. It’s symptomatic of a show that delights in bringing us along with it.

Verdict
Australian ensemble Circa’s latest show is a joyful love letter to contemporary circus
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