Review: Circa's Peepshow at The Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre (on Gadigal Land)

Review By Jerome Studdy

One of the most important considerations for any show is the title. You want something marketable, something catchy, something that clues the audience into what the show might be about, and Circa have an excellent title for a circus burlesque show, “Peepshow”. Promising to be seductive, playful, and surprising, the show unfortunately fell short of the titillating and cheeky night of debauchery that the title had implied. While the circus artistry is nothing short of magnificent, the show as a whole is confused in its structure, design, and genre. If “Peepshow” was intended to imply a peep at the collage of what Circa are capable of, then the variety style show does just that, but, the title and marketing material had saddled the audience with preconceptions that weren’t met.


The talent of the Circa cast is, however, absolutely unfathomable. The sheer strength and capacity that these human bodies exhibit is incomprehensible. From expert tumbling, to terrifying partner and group acrobatics, and gripping aerial artistry, this cast are god-like advocates of the bizarre feats capable by the human body. Whilst the entire cast were incredible in their capacity to deliver the tricks, some of the cast were far more engaging and understood that their performance was more than just the execution of a routine. Any person on the stage is responsible for ensuring their performance is engaging and animated.'


Aside from the remarkable talent of the cast, the show left a lot to be desired. Attempts at illusion were poorly executed, choreography was messy, colour palette was odd, the aesthetic was garbled, the setting felt drab, soundtrack choice was ill-considered, and the lighting felt like it was designed for a different show entirely; with lighting cues timed to music rather than complementing the performance and regularly leaving the performers in darkness (a combination of poor lighting design and performers not hitting their marks).


Perhaps the most jarring aspect of the show was its fragmentation. Again, if it was the intention of the show to be a mosaic of Circa acts, then this may have been effective, however, it wasn’t what the audience expected. Compounding the fragmentation was the performance style. More often than not, cast members would pair up in a way that promised very interesting circus theatre, only for a single trick to be performed and suddenly the routine would shift to something else entirely. These ideas promised something incredible but were all too fleeting to truly indulge the audience’s desires. For example, a second performer was introduced to the Straps performance, the audience began to settle in for a duo routine, only for two tricks to occur and the second artist left the stage. Additional to the fleeting choreography of the routines were poses that weren’t held for to their fullest effect. Shapes were quickly hit and passed over.


Ultimately this was a confusing show, which is a shame given the outstanding potential it has. A strong edit and brainstorm could transform the show into the opulent evening of splendour and seduction it promised. For all this criticism though, I would still strongly encourage audiences to attend, but in the knowledge that the show may not be what they expect.

Image Credit: Prudence Upton


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