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Brighton Festival 2017



Genre: Acrobatics, Dance, Dance and Movement Theatre, Outdoor and Promenade, Site-Specific

Venue: Woodvale Cemetery


Low Down

The exhilarating Australian ensemble Circa returns to thrill Brighton Festival audiences once again, following hits like Beyond in 2015, and How Like an Angel in 2013.

Inspired by the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, Depart will take you on a haunting journey through the underworld in the uniquely atmospheric location of Woodvale Cemetery.

Taking over the cemetery, circus artists will dance above your head, surprising you with extraordinary feats of physicality as they guide you through the space between life and death in this astonishing visual feast.

Led by Yaron Lifschitz with a creative team including electronic musician Lapalux, this ethereal collaboration brings together acrobats, aerialists, choral singers and video artists for an outdoor circus experience that audiences have described as ‘mesmerising’, ‘hauntingly beautiful’ and ‘pure magic’


Depart is a dance show by Australian dance company Circa inspired by the legend of Orpheus, who travelled to the underworld to bring back his beloved Eurydice. I’m glad I read that before I went, because I honestly don’t think I would have guessed.

The group I am in is very large. We are instructed to be quiet as we walk through this promenade performance, and we are, shuffling obediently around the absolutely stunning environs of Woodvale Cemetery.

We are immediately met by a very small child repeating instructions, followed by a long avenue of choral singers. The effect is beautiful, but I am immediately distracted by trying to count them. I think there might be about 200. Can that be right?

The cemetery has been made even more beautiful by the addition of genuinely skilled lighting. Trees billow and sway in cool blues and greens, and I am entranced as we slowly troop through the dark.

Figures emerge from the shadows, sometimes lit, sometimes not. This is an arresting sight. Most of them dance. These dances can be anything from rhythmic movements you might see at the back of a Michael Jackson video to jaw-dropping feats of acrobatics and gymnastics that make you concerned for those involved.

Sometimes a ghostly figure might emerge from the shadows and beckon or gently push you where you should be going, which is cool.

My favourite performers are the women in black and blue, who stand amongst the moodily-lit gravestones like witches.


What’s Depart about? I have no idea. Maybe if I went to more dance shows I would, but I don’t. Is this a bad thing? Not really I suppose.

Does it have a theme? You might think so, given its name and setting, but as far as I can see: nope. Sometimes performers sit in Greco-Roman tableaux lit in orange, but I don’t think that counts as theme. Mood, yes, definitely, but not really theme.

A story? I don’t think so. I bet someone thinks it does, but not me. But again, it doesn’t really need one.

It does need a climax, but to me it seems a shame that this climax ends up being on a stage, when the show had felt so alive in amongst the trees and gravestones. I also get distracted again by trying to count the (20? 50?) performers.

This all sounds very critical, but I don’t really mean it as such. The brief hour of the performance actually flew by. I was hypnotised by the ghostly, ethereal imagery.

It’s a shame they forbid photography, as what they’re essentially doing here is making absolutely gorgeous pictures.


This is big, bold and beautiful; exactly what art should be. It looks absurdly expensive! And I do want there to be more things like this in the world. Would it be better with more of a framework? I suspect so, but then I also suspect that the people who’ve made it understand dance better than I do, so perhaps I’m wrong.

I do certainly think it’s worth seeing, but I wonder if the next thing that Circa does might be a bit closer to perfect.