CIRCA’S PEEPSHOW | London, Underbelly Festival Southbank

Circa’s twisted, macabre acrobatics are like a demonic peep through the keyhole into Bedlam. The circus artistry on display from the Australian company, however, is unparalleled.

There is no set. Just cold, white spotlights, a little smoke, and black and white outfits. The somber-faced performers fit and shriek on stage, as if demonically possessed. They throw each other around, and tumble heavily onto the ground. They form towering totem poles, suck webs of paper out of their mouths, and create contorted monsters of half a dozen overlapping arms, gloved in red velvet.

The really defining aspect of this show is the dark, distorted and dissonant recorded soundtrack. Beginning with a raucous brass ensemble version of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams”, and closing with a choral cover of the same track, we get the impression that we have in some way watched a dream, or rather a nightmare.

Despite the show’s heavy emphasis on ensemble movement, there are some standout performers. Jessica Connell spins four hula-hoops simultaneously in a reverse swastika formation, an impossible stunt. Jarred Dewey weaves his contortionism into a terrifying and unforgettable trapeze act. Standing ovations in circus are rare, but we took to our feet to applaud this most astonishing and unique of circus shows.

Peepshowing in London until 18 August 2018.

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