Review by Regan Baker
Circus has long been one of my favourite artforms and so the promise of acrobatics and feats of exquisite balance were all the arm-twisting I needed to justify battling the Southbank traffic. The Cremorne Theatre has long been synonymous with emerging artists and this December is no different as Vulcana Circus and QPAC join in partnership for the very first time. Continuing to build on its foundation of inclusivity and diversity, and in collaboration with Brisbane Domestic Violence Services, Vulcana have crafted a unique contemporary circus experience in to empower a conversation around the need for awareness and change.
‘Circus in a Teacup’ is a unique performance that combines the retelling of true events by survivors of domestic and gender based violence with the power and beauty of circus. It features fourteen brave women who have taken a huge leap of faith into the unknown to piece together an entire performance from scratch. They brought their own truths to life by learning the relevant circus, movement and flexibility skills that allowed them to present their stories of survival and growth through their individual and collaborative performances.
While the concept and message of the story were incredibly powerful, the execution was unfortunately a little challenging for an outsider of the Vulcana community, friends and family. Perhaps this was my own undoing however, as I formed pre-conceived expectations from reading the show description on the QPAC website, which set the bar significantly higher than what I think is reasonable. There is no denying though that the show is a unique and powerful performance, but having the right expectations is crucial to the enjoyment and resonance of the message and the talent on display.
Putting thing in context, Circus in a Teacup is a showcase of four months of training, collaboration and creation from artists who have never before performed circus. They were not twenty-something year-olds with no bones and insane flexibility, but instead they were mothers, partners and survivors with a willingness to take a risk and try something unknown. The skills these women have learned over the last four months and their ability to create an entire hour-long performance while still working, or being a mother, carer or otherwise, is something to be highly commended.
Their routines were intertwined with video productions that told stories of survival and the trinkets or mindsets that helped the artist through their ordeal. The quality of the productions were high, which elevated the strength of their messaging as the storyteller sat on stage in shadowed lighting.
While there wasn’t necessarily a consistent story throughout the show, the continual theme was of transforming a home back into a space of empowerment and safety. In a traditional sense the home has always been associated with this idea of safety, but has long been contested by the experiences of women and what truly occurs behind closed doors. The utilization of everyday home décor, such as teacups, picture frames, tables and chairs and turning them into elements of strength and balance symbolized this journey of transformation well.
While the circus element of the show may have been a little lacking, the importance of the message was consistent and well received. Focusing on this transformative journey and the collaboration of so many different organisations to support women and survivors of domestic violence is a message that must continue to be supported.