Circa has fast become a favourite at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, but this year’s show is a different beast to those that have gone before.
Previous shows have had a raw intimacy to them with the spectacular acrobatics made all the more seductive by the proximity to the Australian troupe. Whether on makeshift stages carved from within a promenading audience at Norwich Cathedral or a thrust stage in the Spiegeltent, you could hear the performers’ breathing, sense the stiffening of their sinews.
This year takes them to relatively cavernous Theatre Royal for the UK premiere of S. The additional space makes for a faster, more athletic show with the performers tumbling, diving, and running across the full extent of the stage; it is more aggressive, energetic.
Backed by music from the Kronos Quartet, the show is said to be inspired by the letter S but in reality that conceit doesn’t get much of a look in, and the focus is really on the supreme strength and skill of the seven cast members.
They dazzle with their physical prowess: grabbing, throwing, holding, climbing, stepping, jumping over, on top of, and underneath each other in subtly choreographed moves that are expertly synchronised but retain the appearance of casual, impetuous moves.
There are plenty of gasp moments here, where the sheer audacity of the action astounds the audience, but also gentler moments of romance and comedy: two dancers tussle while both biting down on the same short piece of fabric; one dares another to move further and further back as she is thrown for him to catch; an unfortunate patsy gets microphones taped to his body, then smacked and clambered on for the sound effects.
The opening night saw a couple of slip ups in the hoops and the bowls routines but oddly this doesn’t detract: it proves the performers are mortals, not gods.
And that remains the power of Circa: showing with breathtaking simplicity what feats men and women can be capable of.