A wunderkammer is a collection or chamber of curiosities – and it’s the perfect description of this enchanting show by the Brisbane-based Circa ensemble.
Performed by seven acrobats, Wunderkammer combines elements of circus, vaudeville, cabaret and burlesque in a beautiful, often sexy and humorous tableau.
The show at Her Majesty’s Theatre begins quietly, with a single acrobat (Jessica Connell) spotlit on the dark stage, performing a complex routine with luminescent purple hula-hoops to a soundtrack of gentle piano music. It’s the first of a number of vignettes highlighting the skills of individual artists – others include a trapeze striptease – which hold the audience transfixed.
These segue into routines involving more performers, some of which are like sensual acrobatic dances involving eye-popping acts of contortion. Then there are all-in wild routines featuring the full ensemble performing rapid tumbles, handstands, flips and pyramids, with bodies being swung, thrown, twisted and turned so rapidly that it’s near impossible to keep up. The strength of the performers is astounding, and is matched by displays of flexibility, fluidity and gracefulness.
As the mood and pace changes, so does the music: everything from classical, jazz and bossa nova to loud electronica, with a bit of Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel thrown in for good measure. Clever lighting and costuming is integral to the show, with black pants, singlets, lingerie and fishnet stockings enhanced by patches of sequins and splashes of scarlet.
The feeling of the performance veers from flirtatious to playful, with a wonderfully surprising comedy element. At some points, the audience members were in stitches; when the uninflated balloons came into play, it was hard to watch. A highlight overall was Nathan Boyle’s cheeky routine involving bubble wrap.
It’s easy to become blasé about acrobatic and circus productions – there are a lot of them touring, especially during Fringe, and they are invariably pretty slick – but one of the features that sets director Yaron Lifschitz’s Wunderkammer apart is its unique personality.
In an interview last month, ensemble member Brit Portelli told InDaily that the show takes its audience on a “pretty unstable” journey, by the end of which we would have experienced a range of emotions and feel we actually know the individual acrobats. She was spot-on.
The theatre wasn’t full on opening night, but it deserves to be for future performances.
Circa is presenting Wunderkammer at Her Majesty’s Theatre until October 4.
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