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Review: The Displaced at The Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre

By Lisa Lanzi

Director Joshua Hoare believes “in Circus as the Art of Heroism, fragility being an intrinsic part of any hero”.  This iteration of The Displaced for DreamBIG 2019 is a wonderful verification of  human conditions of isolation, manipulation and connection.  I was fortunate to see it with a nearly full contingent of school students in the audience and appreciated being witness to their wonderment almost as much as I enjoyed being at the performance.

I am not a fan of some circus work.  However impressed and amazed I am at the phenomenal skill sets of circus performers, sometimes the endless purveying of ‘tricks’ leaves me cold and the tenuous dramatic threads can seem pointless.  The Displaced does NOT fall into that category!  Adelaide is blessed with a long-standing, innovative and world class circus institution led by Joshua Hoare - South Australian Circus Centre - the home of Cirkidz.  We now have Time In Space Circus, also directed by Hoare, and the future is bright.

Seven marvellously talented young performers grace the stage in various combinations presenting a range of relationships and moods : Margot Mansfield, Dylan Phillips, Jordan Hart, Josh Croall, Amanda Lee, Mark Longo and Hamish McCourty.  The curtain initially reveals two figures who seem to be aiming toward different directions but are trapped in a small space, both by the balancing apparatus and the lighting state.  The elegance of the duet starts with their four long, graceful arms reaching and wrapping and bodies entwining, as if to find a way past each other, but gains momentum as the two build to supple hand balancing work that defies gravity.  Still they cannot ‘escape’ but there is a resignation toward and gentleness about the dilemma which speaks to humans finding reasonable ways to cope with conflict or difference.  It was also totally mesmerising and tender.

Another, suited, character appears and seems to command the scene, busying herself with various props.  She scans the audience in an imperious way and targets a person (another performer) who is persuaded to join her onstage.  This outsider character becomes an observer of the strange world he has been brought into but is manipulated and required to do as he is told for a time.  This leads to a remarkable solo of precision popping and locking as the base plus some athletic variations.  This character also becomes obsessed with another’s diabolo juggling act and surreptitiously but unsuccessfully attempts the spinning effect with one, then two cups, a number of times.  My description is not really doing these interactions justice - the performers create a whimsical, understated but very clear sense of story for the audience and we are carried along with the adventure and all its nuances.

There are further moments that feature trapeze, hula hoops and a number of tumbling and balancing sequences throughout that gave rise to delighted gasps and squeals from the young audience.  One of the striking devices are the creative entries and exits as performers generate small moments of connection or flight or dependence with their acrobatic and athletic interchanges.  The relationships continue to evolve between the characters as they respond to each other and this intimate construct that they inhabit.  The choreographed lifts and duets are truly beautiful and it is clear that these performers possess superb training, not only in their circus skills but in theatrical and movement modalities.  All of this serves to underline the sensitivity of Joshua Hoare’s artistic direction.

The tumbling sequences with spectacular balancing (sometimes three people vertically), pitching (tossing the performer from one group to another) and acrobatics are a highlight.  In the earlier part of the performance the group tumbling choreography conveys a darker sense as the characters contend with, give support to and negotiate with each other to find their way in this landscape.  Later, the group tumbling emphasises playfulness, connection, trust and camaraderie.  All individuals, including our original displaced observer, are finding ways to cooperate and co-exist as a microcosm of an ideal representation of humanity.

The other fine thing about circus work and in particular the group work in this performance is the essence of equality and equity.  All persons, regardless of gender, are important in their roles, all contributions are valued and a strength of that collaboration is that it is non-verbal.  Movement is our first language and connection and resilience is currency.

This gem of ‘new circus’ creates a rich world the audience, young or older, can relate to and from performers and artistry to lighting and music is a well-crafted delight.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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