Reviews/Circus/Fringe World Festival

Thrills and spills in the Big Top

22 January 2021

In the Freo Big Top, Rita Clarke relishes getting up close to the amazing performers in Le Doublé Bill.

Le Doublé Bill, Simon Wood ·
Circus WA Freo Big Top, 21 January, 2021 ·
Review by Rita Clarke ·

All circuses are a give-and-give affair. Performers donate talent, fitness and super-human strength and audiences give back, yelling and applauding – while perhaps bemoaning the fact that their arms ache even when they’re just clapping.

Possibly because of this interaction, before the start of Le Doublé Bill circus – created by WA artists Cat Ranieri, Simon Wood and Ben Kotovski-Steele – you relax outside in the colourful Carnibar, perched on well-loved sofas or the grass under a tree, a kind of green-room for the soon-to-be-active audience.

It’s rather a shock, then to be heralded into the cavernous white tent, bare, sparsely seated and totally bereft of the usual brightly coloured decor and razzamatazz. Children are ushered excitedly into tiny seats at the front.

Cat Ranieri’s balancing prowess impressed in her ‘Get Fit with Jane Funda’ act. Photo: Tashi Hall

In the first act, Ranieri poses as a hilarious Jane Funda, aping the 1980s disco-led get-fit fanatic dressed in neon Lycra and the era’s ubiquitous headband. She gets the audience to warm up with her. The children were adorable – never work with kids and animals, don’t they say?

Ranieri raises herself up by her fingertips on top of barely-balanced, multiple high-stacked chairs, does press-ups hanging upside-down, and sculpts her body into eye-watering contortions. She is funny and skilled on the trapeze, especially with a choreographed mock-drama performed to “All by Myself” and “Hero”.

In “Down. Rebound”, performed by Wood and Kotovski-Steele, we learn about the vicissitudes of mounting a circus work. They first talk about each other – of Kotovski-Steele’s injuries and Wood’s dancing skills, recently upgraded in London.

The act that follows seemed in the throes of being perfected on opening night: juggling sticks fell to the floor but the next minute Kotovski-Steele would balance one upon the other in full flight. They mistimed some acrobatics, but you weren’t quite sure which of them were actual mistakes, which was humorous and endearing. Their rope climbing – an athletic practice that began with the ancient Greeks – was adept and beautiful.

For those used to the polish of shows like Cirque du Soleil, Le Doublé Bill will seem very pared back, but its attraction is how up-close and physical you get to the performers. You sense their vulnerability, warm to them, and are amazed by them.

Le Doublé Bill is on in the Circus WA Freo Big Top until 24 January, 2021.

Pictured top: Excited kids sit ringside in the Big Top as Simon Wood, left, and Ben Kotovski-Steele juggle clubs in ‘Down. Rebound’, the second act of ‘Le Doublé Bill’. Photo: Tashi Hall

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