Alice in the Madhouse
Madhouse Circus @ The Birdcage
6:00pm, Thu 14 Mar 2013
Three years ago, Gravity & Other Myths proved that a young acrobatic act could still perform incredible feats, without the benefit of mature muscles and frames; they almost single-handedly encouraged me to keep attending circus performances put on by young troupes, always hoping that they could be the Next Big Thing.
And what Victoria-based Madhouse Circus lack in age, they make up for in vision: they present a series of acrobatic, dance, and physical performance pieces underpinned by the themes and characters of Alice in Wonderland. Their background music is superb, and a lot of the performances – balances, acrobatics, juggling – are quite polished in their delivery.
At times, the show feels almost hampered by the narrative that has been forced around it; the Tweedledum & Tweedledee big ring exercise being the most egregious example, though the justifications given for other character pieces verged on the insulting. There’s an audience interaction segment that dragged the momentum of the entire performance to a screeching halt – and the end result (when it finally happened) was most certainly not worth the effort. Then again, it was a pretty crap audience: clearly inexperienced in the usual applaud-at-the-end-of-a-trick customs, most of the show was performed in the crowd’s silence.
But that may have been because of the tightly packed nature of Madhouse’s show; there were none of the customary pauses for applause, as trick rolled into trick rolled into trick and then offstage whilst another performer comes on. And, if that was a directorial choice, that kind of subversion of the established give-and-take of the audience is a pretty bold thing for a young company to do… on the other hand, maybe they were just nervous and ploughed through their set.
So – some decent performances by a promising bunch of youngsters, held back by ruthless direction and a desperate need for narrative. Whilst it wasn’t the best show I’ve seen, it certainly wasn’t the worst… and hey, at least someone loved it.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 14, 2013