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Circa: Peepshow at the Underbelly Festival | Review

Underbelly Circa Peep Show Production
Underbelly Circa Peep Show Production – Photo by The Other Richard

Pop down to London’s South Bank and you will see that Underbelly is back home for its traditional summer presentation of a myriad of entertainment experiences. My first visit this year coincided with the arrival of Circa’s Peep Show.

This highly impressive acrobatics show comes to the UK from our cousins in Australia and is currently in residence in the Spiegeltent. It is, according to Director Yaron Lifschitz, a show about looking and being seen and, to my mind that’s a wonderful description of this very sparkly and highly complex production.

The performance starts with a superb display of hoop maneuvering and control by Jessica Connell for whom the hoop is less an item to play with and more an extension of her own body. In beautifully choreographed movement, Connell makes her hoop and hoops move in unexpected and, at times quite sensual ways. This is one of the few individual pieces in the show. Another is the amazing routine by a highly muscular Jared Dewey on the trapeze. Dewey’s performance at one point was so intense it drew gasps of wonder from the audience.

The rest of the cast (Ela Bartilomo, Scott Grove, David Trappes, Billie Wilson-Coffrey and Rowan Heydon-White – currently replacing the injured Luke Thomas) do a quite breathtaking amount of acrobatics including some amazing work of throwing each other about and, at times appearing to teeter on the edge of coming off the stage and joining the audience in the front row. There is even some audience participation but, being Circa, it is done with a surprising twist.

The highly flexible movements and acrobatics are accompanied by excellent music and superb atmospheric lighting, designed by Jason Organ and Richard Clarke. Costumes by Libby McDonnell are, as you would expect, appropriate for the needs of the acrobatic side of the performance – in fact, I don’t think you will sequined shorts that tight outside of Sydney Mardi Gras (not that I’m complaining – and add to the fun elements of the show).

The one issue for me was that at times, there seemed to be a loss of momentum at times when acrobatics were replaced by what appeared to be interpretive dance. Whilst I appreciate that in the course of the hour, the performers need a moment to catch their breath between tumbles, etc, there were definite moments when the atmosphere dropped, such as the times the performers appeared to be convulsing in some form of dream sequence.

Whilst I liked Circa’s Peep Show I did end up wondering if it really knew what it wanted to be. The acrobatics were amazing well worthy of the enthusiastic audience reactions. The problem, for me, was that there were too many elements that weren’t about acrobatics or circus performing and I felt that some of the one-hour running time wasn’t used as effectively as it could have been. Having said that, it is definitely worth going to see the show just to appreciate the sheer acrobatic artistry and skill of the performers. The final scene was a genuine heart in the mouth moment where nobody could take their eyes off the stage whilst keeping their fingers crossed that it was all going to come out OK. For that alone, Peep Show definitely deserved the standing ovation that the cast received at the end.

Circa come to London with Peepshow, an exciting European premiere that turns cabaret on its head, literally. Join ‘the rockstars of the circus world’ as they embark on a seductive dance through the hall of mirrors that is your imagination. Peepshow lurches from the thrillingly acrobatic to the comically playful with teetering towers of balanced bodies, extreme bending and devilishly precarious aerials.

By makers of the smash-hit shows Humans, Beyond, Wunderkammer and Closer, Peepshow combines some of the finest acrobatic talent on the planet under the direction of circus visionary Yaron Lifschitz to create an exhilarating ride into the beautifully bizarre recesses of your mind.

Playing with the extreme physicality of this troupe of phenomenal acrobats, Circa blur the lines between movement, dance, theatre and circus. Exploring the concept of looking and being looked at, Peepshow uses circus to explore themes of gender and sexuality on the stage.

Circa: Peepshow
Running Time: 60 minutes
Age Restrictions: Ages 12+
Booking Until: 18th Aug 2018
Underbelly Festival, Jubilee Gardens, off Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX
www.underbellyfestival.com

 

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