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Adelaide Fringe 2015


Madhouse Circus

Genre: Circus

Venue: Gluttony - The Peacock


Low Down

This show from Madhouse Circus has arrived quickly from a well-received season in Perth: with plenty of other circus shows to choose from in Adelaide right now, each needs something different to fill the tent – and these six performers do it by playing with light.


All six performers strut their stuff before the show really begins: it’s good to see them fresh, smiling and all muscles – the four topless men more obviously than the two modestly attired women. Then the stage darkens to just a frame of a dressing room mirror, all bright bulbs. One of the male performers preens in front of us, a moment of calm before it gets much, much more frantic. All six of them are doing different things – at most in pairs – and we really enjoy not knowing where to look, but knowing we’ll be impressed anyway.

The name of the show suggests a theme of light – and it does adopt this, though sometimes more incidental than thematic. Not to be confused with a similar sounding show (which follows this one’s 8pm performance with glow-in-the-dark acrobatics), Illuminate has different ways to highlight the performers’ talents: fairy lights, lamps, hand held torches – even the flashes of the audience’s camera phones (only when they say it’s okay!) – all enlighten us with their strength, skill and agility.

Each shows us his or her special skill: there’s superb balance (including some incredible work with two of them wrapped in a rope of light); and impressive juggling – three or four or more, under and over and up and side to side. There’s a calm man in the wheel, turning vertically before leaning in and spinning like a coin about to drop, yet he never does; and the two women playfight with the hoops, keeping us smiling and applauding at the same time. But the highlight for me is the couple showing us jaw-dropping aerial work: the strength and control in these two is unbelievable as they climb and turn in all directions: there are moments they just have to be levitating!

This is a more intimate show than some, with a lot of the action on the lower stage right at the feet of the front row: you can feel the performers rush past – you may even have a close encounter with a stray hoop… there’s a few more hiccoughs than I hoped, but these men and women just get up and try again, and the audience is encouraging with their claps and cheers. I thought there would also be a stronger narrative through each segment – especially after the excellent start – but if you want impressive feats more than narrative, Illuminate will not disappoint: these six young men and women radiate fun and flair throughout.