Circolombia @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Big Top
9:30pm, Sun 3 Mar 2013
I’m starting to get a bit weary of the super-polished productions that appear in the larger venues in The Garden; as I’ve previously stated, I like my acrobatics up-close and dirty, with the muscles of performers twitching under duress in clear view. Whilst the Cantinas and La Cliques and Limbos of the world impress in terms of the spectacle, they also distance themselves from the audience by virtue of their size.
And so, when walking into The Big Top to discover a wide performance area with shallow audience areas (I hesitate to call it “seating”) around the space, I immediately started gauging the distance between my eyes and where the performers would be… and my heart sank a little. Circus at a distance, it would appear. I looked at my ticket – $52. Shit. Think positive thoughts, think positive thoughts…
But as soon as the music started thumping (a consistent urban beat that drove the performance along), and the lights started flashing, it became evident that Circolombia would provide substance to match their style. Hailing from the Circo Para Todos (Circus For All) school in Cali, Colombia, the cast are uniformly beautiful human specimens, and they certainly perform: running, dancing, bounding, leaping, spinning, somersaulting, flipping, flying, soaring.
Oh, and they sing too, whilst revelling in a sense of convincingly ghetto camaraderie.
Aside from one spectacular trick at the tail end of the show – a stunning contrivance of a stunt that sees one performer twist and flip through the air before landing (and striking a cheekily lazy pose) in a chair suspended at the end of a pole three-quarters of the way to the roof – there were no new tricks to be found… hoops and ropes and ribbons all made appearances to support the performance, circus staples were separated by hip-hop dance battles, and the projection of movies into the space gave the cast opportunity to occasionally catch their breath (and allowed us to breathe again). There’s a polish in the multimedia support for the production, but it doesn’t seem at odds with the grittiness of the performers.
Was the makeup on the performers (and their marketing) a little over-the-top? Yep. Was the cast (a little disappointingly) male-heavy? Yes, though the women who were there more than held their own in the stunt department. Did some of the musical numbers grate my old-man ears almost instantly? You betcha. But there’s a sense of urgency in the production that more than makes up for any feelings of been-there-done-that; there’s a vigour and creativity that lifts this high above the other big-ticket productions. Whilst I may have been concerned about becoming jaded, Circolombia proved to be satisfyingly surprising.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 3, 2013