Shift Ensemble @ Royal Croquet Club – Ukiyo
5:30pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015
Before turning up to Luster, I – in a seldom-initiated move – read up a little on the performance. Apparently, this was to be a circus act with a narrative… a show based on the performer’s lives when they’re not onstage. A peek behind the curtain, if you will. But with the Ukiyo somehow reeking of fish as the small audience entered this afternoon, I hoped that this was not part of the overall aesthetic of the show.
The Shift Ensemble are a young troupe; assembled through the Backstage Pass program at Flipside Circus, they’re a multidisciplinary group of (mostly female) actors, circus performers, and a dancer. And, if nothing else, they all appear to be competent performers, and display a great deal of trust in each other: despite the fact that some of the performers could only perform relatively simple (and occasionally spill-tastic) hoop routines or floor tumbles, there was never a moment’s hesitation when it came to any of the more complex balances or throws.
But the pacing of Luster is all over the place: sometimes there’s a painfully long gap between lacklustre floor routines (without even music to cover it), and other times there’s too much going on at once: half the cast created a stir-fry onstage whilst the other half performed! The show just feels too long for what it actually is… then again, a lot of other circus performances suffer from the same problem.
The final act, though, was a massive success: with all troupe members onstage at the same time, they performed collaborative ribbon & rope routines with performers taking turns in the air and on the ground. It’s a great conclusion, and it had me leaving the Ukiyo in an upbeat frame of mind.
But it’s not enough to overcome the stop-start pacing and unfocussed direction. And… Luster? Really? Why the US-centric spelling?
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 12, 2015