Circus Fire Spectacular duo turn up the heat

24 January 2022

Though their script may lack sizzle, Zap Circus impresses Bruce Denny with fiery acts of dare-devilry.

Circus Fire Spectacular, Zap Circus ·
The Big Top in The Pleasure Garden, 22 January 2022 ·

It’s a scorcher in Perth, so let’s go and watch a fire storm inside a tent. Full of flaming stunts, Zap Circus’s Circus Fire Spectacular, created and performed by WA husband and wife team Rusty Hammond and Tarrabelle Murphy, turns up the heat literally and metaphorically.

But what’s Fringe without a little discomfort?

Having shuffled and snaked its way into The Pleasure Garden’s Big Top, the opening night crowd sat patiently while Hammond and Murphy set up props, performing an occasional trick interspersed with banter. A person sitting behind me muttered “it’s a bit of a slow start” – indeed, the performers only introduced themselves 20 minutes after the slated start time of 8pm.

Rusty Hammond from Circus Fire Spectacular appears to have a streak of flames running along his torso, from one hand held baton to another.
Rusty Hammond performing one of this daring and dangerous feats. Photo: Eye Candy Australia

What’s more, the Acknowledgment of Country felt a little generic and insincere as it didn’t mention the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation on whose land they were on.

Nonetheless, the pair’s skills are impressive, and they entertain the audience with energetic feats of acrobatics and flame, more often than not, simultaneously. On opening night, the crack of a burning bull whip made many flinch in their seats. At other times punters sprang to life with spontaneous applause for the daring and dangerous feats.

Most of us mortals have trouble keeping one hula hoop going, let alone multiples that are on fire. Now imagine standing on your partner’s shoulder while both of you twirl batons that are alight and burning bright at both ends. I was going to try this, but the current fire bans in Perth stopped me.

Another highlight is a light sabre segment. The speed, vivid colours and sheer brightness of the wand’s flashing messages had the audience enthralled. I tried hard to work out how they were getting such a fantastic effect but they were twirling so fast I had no chance.

The energy and skills of Hammond and Murphy are undeniable and the audience seemed to have a ball. With copious self-promotion and daggy dad jokes, however, the script would benefit from an edit and an update.

Circus Fire Spectacular continues at The Big Top until 13 February 2022.

Pictured top is Tarrabelle Murphy. Photo: Eye Candy Australia

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Author —
Bruce Denny

Emerging critic Bruce Denny’s heritage is Yamatji down his mother’s side and native American down his father’s. He started his acting career in the late 1980s and has appeared in numerous Australian film, television and stage productions, most recently Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company’s The Sum of Us (2021). As a director Bruce’s most recent credit is Desert Wirla’s Kangaroo Stew. Bruce participated in Seesaw Magazine and Perth Festival’s inaugural mentoring workshops for emerging First Nations critics in 2020.

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