Theatre review: Circa: Wunderkammer
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: Circa: Wunderkammer at Underbelly Bristo Square (Venue 300), reviewed by Kelly Apter
Circus is not in short supply at this year’s Fringe. If you’re in the mood for trapeze, aerial work, acrobatics or hula hoop, take your pick, there’s a lot out there. Every one of the artists delivering this increasingly popular artform has spent years honing their craft to get it right.
So what separates one from the other? What makes one group of people standing on each other’s shoulders different from the next? In the end it comes down to choices. Which music you use, how you choose to interact with the audience, the way you light it, what emotions you want to elicit.
Australian troupe Circa was set up in 2006 with a remit to produce “circus that moves the heart, mind and soul”. I’ll confess to a few reservations about the self-titled work they brought to the Fringe in 2009, but Wunderkammer does exactly what Circa set out to achieve.
Like any circus show, it’s a mish-mash. When the seven performers walk on stage, dressed as if they work in the local strip club, in stockings, French knickers, briefs and bare chests, you’d be forgiven for expecting something salacious. But beauty, not bawdiness, is what they’re offering.
Don’t be put off by a moment early on when the cast cleans its collective nasal passages with plastic string (a yoga technique) – it may feel incongruous, but if that’s what it takes to produce what follows, then clean away.
One of the first things that strikes you about Circa, is its egalitarian gender balance. Men stand on top of women, just as much as the other way round. Then you’re swept away by the truly beautiful celebration of what the human body can do.
Set to music from Bach to Peter Gabriel’s touching Book of Love, each routine impresses with its strength and power – but then gives you that extra something special.
In particular Toby Kilby and Lewis West’s bewitching duet on the Chinese pole, Jarred Dewey’s impossibly graceful trapeze strip tease, Freyja Edney’s technically strong hoop work, and the muscular prowess of Scott Grove who, despite his physique, still exudes a sensitivity to his craft.
Other times, it’s the team work that bowls you over – especially when they use each other as human skipping ropes. The sense of trust and mutual appreciation is palpable, so is the lack of bravado. All they exude is a desire to share each moment with their audience.
MORE INFO: Circa: Wunderkammer at Underbelly Bristo Square
Originally published in The Scotsman