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Circa’s Peepshow is a coup for Castlemaine State Festival

CASTLEMAINE STATE FESTIVAL

Circa’s Peepshow.Credit:Carl Dziunka

CIRCUS
Peepshow ★★★★

Created by Yaron Lifschitz with Libby McDonnell & The Circa Ensemble
Castlemaine Goods Shed, March 23-24

Circa is one of the great success stories in Australia’s performing arts scene, rising from a boutique operation in Brisbane to a world-renowned leader in contemporary circus. Some measure of its international appeal can be seen in the fact that audiences in London and Berlin have enjoyed Peepshow before any Australian capital city.

It’s a bit of a coup for Castlemaine, then, that this dazzling and playful work has been programmed to headline its biennial arts festival.

Circa’s Peepshow.Credit:Carl Dziunka

Peepshow represents a change in direction from some of the company’s more elevated pieces. This one takes inspiration from clubland and cabaret, all-night raves and lusty jazz, from the louche underworld of the red-light district rather than the high culture of string quartets and symphony orchestras.

That isn’t to say the show is sleazy or meretricious. It isn’t in the least, and anyone who has seen the Circa ensemble in action knows how eloquently it allows the body to speak through an expansive, elegant performance language that swings and tumbles and vaults itself along porous borders of allied art forms such as dance and physical theatre.

One could probably add an edge of burlesque to the mix, for what Peepshow offers is an alluring, sensually charged exploration of the erotics of circus arts – one that exalts the body and the imagination of it through physical mastery, strength and grace, but also through a reinvention, refinement and elaboration of core disciplines.

It’s a show that does for circus what the Kama Sutra did for sex, and even jaded veterans will be aroused and invigorated by the ingenuity on display.

a show that does for circus what the Kama Sutra did for sex

For occasional circusgoers, though, the adventurous theatricality of the ensemble acrobatics will be an utterly astonishing experience. Expect the human body contorted in preternatural ways, the tallest three-high human pyramid ever mustered, static trapeze danced almost into aerial ballet, and an uncanny acro-balance sequence that uses human scalp as a high-wire.

Circa’s Peepshow.Credit:Diana Domonkos.

Perhaps the second act would be better witnessed in a large established theatre venue. It features an extended sequence to a throbbing electronic soundtrack, relies on complex backlighting and haze effects, and rides the line between pleasure and pain much harder than the elating aerialism and virtuosic group work of the first half. At the Castlemaine Goods Shed, some of the immersive impact got lost.

But that’s just one more reason why audiences in our urban centres should be salivating at the prospect of an Australian tour.

The author travelled to Castlemaine as a guest of the festival. 

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