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Reviews/Circus

Acrobatch Circus is an antidote to toxic masculinity

23 January 2022

There’s more to Down Rebound than charming circus and witty patter, discovers Nina Levy.

Down Rebound, Acrobatch ·
The Gold Digger @ Girls School, 22 January 2022 ·

It’s another 40-degree day in Perth, but inside the Acrobatch Fringe tent there’s a metaphorical breath of fresh air.

It emanates from two male circus performers, one standing on the other’s shoulders. They introduce one another with an insight into each of their vulnerabilities. Ben has had “a rough couple of years” with injury; Simon’s biggest fear is fear itself.

They’re not just collaborators, they are friends. From the outset, their mutual love, respect and compassion for one another is clearly articulated. Toxic masculinity begone.

This iteration of Down Rebound, by local circus duo Acrobatch (Ben Kotovski Steele and Simon Wood), premiered in August at the State Theatre Centre’s Studio Underground as part of the inaugural Perth Circus Festival. While less salubrious, the cosier Gold Digger tent proves a better venue for a show that relies heavily on rapport between punters and performers.

And that rapport is vital. Kotovski-Steele and Wood are perfectly capable of impressing with their skills but this show isn’t particularly slick. This is, perhaps, intentional – the pair speak frankly about the tricks they find hardest, and how they feel when they don’t pull something off. Though a few of the misfires witnessed on opening night seem genuine, it’s hard to be sure what’s intentional and what isn’t, when the accompanying patter is humorously commentating on the frustrations of dropped juggling balls, or “inconsistent” handstands.

Most of the tricks work, however. In the paired juggling Kotovski Steele seems to grab balls that are nowhere near his line of vision. In matching handstands, the performers’ legs carve and twist the air for what seems like an impossible length of time. Wood’s press to handstand atop Kotovski-Steele’s shoulders is an audience favourite, another supported handstand sees him arch at an angle that seems to defy gravity.

Performers from Acrobatch Circus. Pictured one man lies on the floor, holding the arms of another man who is in a handstand that arches over at a seemingly impossible angle.
Supported by Ben Kotovski-Steele, Simon Wood’s handstand arches at a gravity-defying angle. Photo: Tashi Hall

Though a little long, the rope section is also impressive. Wood’s roll-up – a manoeuvre which sees him literally “roll” up the rope – is another audience favourite. Both performers shinny up and daringly drop down the rope with careless grace. The simple but pleasing finale is better without any spoilers.

The running commentary, though occasionally stilted, has an endearing quality. When they vie for most impressive injury it’s hard to choose between Wood’s 80s Mix-Tape hair-whipping induced whiplash and Kotovski-Steele’s soulful ode to his back injury.

Part of the reason Down Rebound gets away with its lack of gloss is that its two performers are so lovable. There are moments when all Wood has to do is give us a grin and we applaud. And though the show has a “work in progress” quality in comparison to more polished Fringe offerings, that is part of its charm.

But watching this season of Down Rebound, what struck me most was its representation and celebration of male friendship, kindness and compassion.

I’d recommend this show to anyone of any age, but please – take your boys.

Down Rebound continues at Girls School until 6 February 2022.

Pictured top are Ben Kotovski-Steele (bottom) and Simon Wood (top). Photo: Rachel Collier

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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