Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Circa return with their latest blink-and-you’ll-miss-it feats, bringing the audience up close and personal with their performers. A visceral and frenetic feast of acrobatics, balance, and hand-to-hand skills using projection, music, and us as the audience, to break down the performer/spectator relationship in circus shows.
As far as acrobatics and circus skills in performance go, everyone needs to see a Circa production. The daring and freshness of this Australian company, despite being impeccably skilled, never rests of on their laurels as far as handstands and back-flips are concerned; every show offers something different and pushes at the boundaries of the genre. Close Up is no exception; this time using extreme zoomed in projection and audience participation in order for us to really get a feel (figuratively and literally) for the abilities of the performers.
Before illustrating his staggering aptitude for hand balancing, one performer ran around the auditorium allowing people to feel his hands, whilst describing his routine for keeping them soft yet strong enough for his profession. Across the room, another acrobat was walking on the laps of audiences. Usually for the sakes of risk assessments and safety measures, the fourth wall has to be very much in place for circus productions, especially those concerning height and aerial equipment. Circa’s capabilities meant that, while still being safe, they were able to cross the line of having an audience simply watch a performance, and actively engage – a clever move to make an audience more invested in what it is they are seeing.
Alongside this, we are presented with a series of edited screenings, presented on a large backdrop that makes the stage space where these incredible acts take place feel even smaller and closer. In the slowest of motions, and zoomed in to the max, images of the movements circus performers achieve with ease are given a new perspective – down to the clouds of chalk and ripples of skin that are a consequence of the actions. At times, this bordered on feeling like a new age, black and white, film-noir nature documentary, but an interesting choice to enable clear transitions. Juxtaposing this, an incredibly refreshing use of direct address and song, with a microphone delightfully passed between acrobats doing what they do best.
There is no question of the immaculate nature of Circa’s abilities. Their dedicated training centre time after time is the launch pad for some of the most powerful and risk-taking work in the field, creating a generation of almost superhuman performers. This performance successfully tries to take away from just that – the concept of this inhuman performer who doesn’t make mistakes; a somersault just another way to get to work in the morning. The bold and unapologetic direction of this performance not only has you rubbing your eyes afterwards due to being unable to close them, but constantly thinking of the performers as actual living, breathing people who have trained to be masters of their crafts. This intimate, behind the scenes look at the tangibility of circus skills is infectiously captivating and devoid of any air of pretention.