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Circa: Humans review at Underbelly Circus Hub, Edinburgh – ‘awe-inspiring, wondrous stuff’

Circa's Humans. Photo: Pedro Greig Circa's Humans. Photo: Pedro Greig

Circa’s work has always explored the poetic possibilities of the human body. While some of the Australian circus company’s previous shows have been more playful and more experimental, Humans is this at its purest: the body is simultaneously tested and celebrated – it’s awe-inspiring, wondrous stuff.

The ten-strong company makes pretzels of themselves and frisbees of each other. They bend into impossible shapes. They perform handsprings and shoulder rolls, they flip and twist and hurl themselves at the ground and at each other. Sometimes their interactions seem aggressive – they butt against each other; they grab each other by the mouths – sometimes they are almost seductive.

There is tenderness in the way they lift each other up and the way they bear each other’s weight, in the way they support one another. They form a line and use each other’s heads as stepping-stones. They turn one of their number into a human jump-rope. They transform themselves into a temple of bodies, standing on each other’s shoulders and making platforms of each other’s heads and hands. They become human architecture.

While the show contains the occasional moment of silliness – at one point they all strive to lick their own elbows to the strains of Frank Sinatra’s The Impossible Dream – there are also echoes of Pina Bausch in the way director Yaron Lifschitz places bodies upon the stage.

We watch the performers’ sinews strain and their skin start to glisten as they transform into pendulums, croquet hoops and totems. Occasionally they employ straps and trapezes, but the use of equipment dilutes the show’s power. It’s strongest when presenting us with the human form in all its glory, vulnerable yet strong. This might well be the company’s best work yet.

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Dazzling circus show celebrating the poetic potential of the human body