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Reviews/Circus/Perth Festival

Acts of bravery

28 February 2020

Between gasps at the performers’ feats, Isabelle Leclezio finds herself deeply moved by Leviathan’s message.

Review: Circa, Leviathan ·
Regal Theatre, 26 February 2020 ·
Review by Isabelle Leclezio ·


The curtain has barely risen, and Leviathan already has us in its thrilling grasp. Three formidable performers stand one on top of the other, feet-on-shoulders, stable and sure, like one giant Herculean being. They tilt towards the floor in terrifying slow motion before somersaulting smoothly to their feet in the nick of time, as if there was nothing remotely frightening about hurtling towards the ground.

The bravery of this Australian cast of 36 talented circus performers and dancers extends far beyond spectacular physical feats. World-renowned Australian circus arts director Yaron Lifschitz does not shy away from the challenge of creating such a large-scale production, nor from making an unflinching political statement about the crucial need for community in a world where power rests in the closed fists of the few.

This theme of collectivism runs strongly throughout Perth Festival 2020. Director Iain Grandage’s eclectic program has brought together international, interstate and local artists, in particular from among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples. His aim is to build artistic connections that put the West Australian arts scene firmly on the global map.

So I am deeply moved by Leviathan’s egalitarian composition. The show is constructed through the unique collaboration of several Australian companies, with emphasis on the strength of the group rather than the prowess of the individual. Brisbane-based Circa Contemporary Circus brings to the work an exemplary professional foundation, complemented by a refreshing diversity of circus performers of all ages from local companies CircusWA and MAXIMA Circus. The dynamic dancers from WA’s flagship contemporary dance company, Co:3 Australia, offer new textures and layers of movement to the production.

The show’s title is a pertinent reference to social contract theorist Thomas Hobbes’ book of the same name, acknowledging the complexities of interdependence and the way it both confines and liberates us.

A woman walks across a sea of heads. Photo: Sergio Lordao

Driven by Owen Belton’s compelling score, Leviathan takes us through a kaleidoscope of allegorical snapshots. In and around an impressive stage design by Marg Horwell, a mass of individuals twists and turns through a huge grid-like structure suspended above the stage: sometimes playful, sometimes sombre. An interesting addition is the video projection of otherwise unseen angles of the live performance, providing a frame for interpretation. Is it a game on the monkey bars, a celebration of unabashed youth? Or is it a confined jail cell, a fence monitored by a scanning searchlight, a set of rigid rules?

There are moments in Leviathan when it’s difficult to follow the swarming mob of bodies among exploding confetti, tumbles, lifts and leaps. But then, like the sudden end of a torrential downpour, the overwhelming stimuli give way to more delicate offerings. In a poignant moment, a woman walks with quiet determination across a sea of heads, the group ebbing and flowing beneath her.

There was an atmosphere of collective pride in the theatre as the performers took their final bows, standing side by side across generations, demonstrating the immensity of what can be achieved from working together.

This is an exhilarating time in the world of contemporary circus. Circa and its collaborators continue to lead the way into undefined territory, uncovering a fascinating vulnerability and tenderness within extreme physicality.

Leviathan‘s stirring power is its ability to create space for fearless realities, voicing what it means to be human in an increasingly connected and complex world.

Leviathan continues until 1 March 2020.

Pictured top: Bodies balance and writhe in and out of a suspended grid in ‘Leviathan’. Photo: Sergio Tordao

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Author —
Isabelle Leclezio

Isabelle Leclezio is currently very excited to be moovin’ and groovin’ again after a year away from the world of dance. This year she is back at WAAPA to complete her Honours degree, during which she hopes to learn more about the power of dance in marginalised communities. Her favourite pick-me-up activity is soaring on the swings in the park at night, watching the streetlights woooosh past.

Past Articles

  • One man makes sense of the world

    Isabelle Leclezio is fascinated by the creative output of the late Ross Seaton, known as ‘the Walking Man’, a reclusive but prolific artist who worked to make sense of the world.

  • A fishbowl of memories

    Isabelle Leclezio finds the uninhibited joy of fish feet refreshing to see in the local indie dance scene.

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