HUMANS BY CIRCA Theater Review
I just reviewed The 7 Stages of Grieving at the Skylight Theatre about Australia’s indigenous people and remarked on how fresh and original that production is. The same holds true for Circa Contemporary Circus, which coincidentally is based in Brisbane (where my daughter, the phenomenal Samoan singer Marina Davis lives) - it seems that people of European ancestry Down Under can be quite singular, too. Perhaps living at the Antipodes imparts a unique sensibility on its inhabitants - Black or white?
Be that as it may, Humans By Circa is completely different from Grieving, a one-woman show about the trials and tribulations of “Oz’s” Aboriginal people. However, both works are short one-acters minus intermission. But the similarities end there.
It’s all very breathtaking and eye-popping to watch, and I was enraptured by this offbeat act that’s as athletic as Cirque du Soleil but minus the glitziness of the latter’s extravaganzas.
Because it’s so off-the-beaten-track Humans is hard to describe, but I’ll take a stab at it. 10 young male/female acrobats clad in form-fitting skimpy outfits combine tumbling with aerial derring-do, Olympic-caliber acrobatics and choreography often set to recorded music in various genres, ranging from James Brown to Global. There are lots of feats involving feet, with a performer walking across the skulls formed by a human bridge of sort by the other athletes. Or, defying gravity (and common sense!), they very powerfully lift one another or form human pyramids and the like. There are also heaps of artists hurling themselves about (happily, there seemed to be a special flooring on the stage of the Bram Goldsmith Theater to cushion their collisions).
It’s all very breathtaking and eye-popping to watch, and I was enraptured by this offbeat act that’s as athletic as Cirque du Soleil but minus the glitziness of the latter’s extravaganzas. Circa is more down to Earth than Cirque, although I thoroughly enjoy both. One can’t help but admire the performers’ sheer bravado, skill, strength and all-important precision timing
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To be honest, although I had a ball, I’m not quite sure what to make of Circa. What are these audacious Aussies trying to say - if anything? At times, as modern dance met a form of 21st century circus, it seemed to me that these wacky Queenslanders were expressing something about male-female sexuality or homoeroticism. In one curious but droll number members of the entire ensemble try to lick their own elbows. Sometimes, the acrobats are so entwined they are reminiscent of multi-armed Hindu deities such as Kâli. Other times Humans appeared to be enacting aggression. Remarkably, Keaton Hentoff-Killian - who was born into a traditional circus family at Missouri - seems to be named after the great Buster Keaton, and with minimal dialogue Circa does have a slapstick, pantomimic vibe, like the silent screen comedians of yore.
At Circa’s website Humans is ballyhooed as “a stirring journey of what it means to be human and of how our bodies, our connections and our aspirations all form part of who we are.” More often than not, the approximately 70-minute show focused on formalism - displaying through death-defying deeds the magnificence of the human form.
A majority of the artists hail from Australia, but others are from Europe, America and Canada. Since 2004 Circa, the brainchild of award-winning director Yaron Lifschitz, has performed in 40 countries at six continents, with shows ranging from Lisbon to London to Montreal to Berlin and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Humans By Circa was presented Nov. 1-2 in Beverly Hills at the Bram Goldsmith Theater, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, which, with shows like this, has emerged as a leading entertainment/ arts venue in Los Angeles. Besides Humans Circa mounts a variety of shows with titles such as Peepshow and Leviathan. For more info see: https://circa.org.au/.
L.A.-based film historian/reviewer Ed Rampell co-authored the third edition of“The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”available at: https://mutualpublishing.com/product/the-hawaii-movie-and-television-book/ .