Circus, News, Reviews, Theatre

Having a ball and learning

AWESOME Review: Maxima Circus, CATCH! ⋅
PICA Performance Space, 9 October  ⋅
Review by David Zampatti ⋅

As you might have guessed, CATCH! is about all the things kids can do with balls (okay, okay, it could have been about fishing too – but it wasn’t).

Throw, kick, drop, juggle, hit, roll, sit on (if it’s big enough), mark, head, or even deflate.

But, in the world of the playground, balls can mean other things. You can take your ball and go home if you’re angry. You can sit on the sidelines while other kids play with them if you’re not able to connect.

Come to think of it, balls can mean a lot when you’re growing up, and teach you a lot about other games people play.

Writer and director Sally Richardson and her young performers at Maxima Circus have thought about it, and the result is a quirky little show that is as much about loneliness and acceptance than the games kids play.

The acrobatic work from the troupe (puppeteer Yvan Karlsson, dancer Isabella Stone and outstanding – and strong– circus performer Karla Scott) is neat and enjoyable. Richardson organises business effectively, and Joe Lui’s lighting and sound are as polished as we’ve come to expect from this remarkable and adaptable theatre maker.

And the addition of the experienced and emotionally charged actor Ella Hetherington as the girl on the outer gives the performance its bite.

CATCH! may not reach the heights of Tetris, the outstanding show from the Netherlands that has been an Awesome highlight this week, but that’s a very lofty bar to jump.

It is, however, a clever, thoughtful and neatly delivered show that has a point to make, and makes it well.

CATCH!’s public season has finished by the schools’ season runs until October 17.

Caption (left to right): Isabella Stones, Karla Scott (behind), Ella Hetherington and Ivan Karlsson.  Photo: Emma Fishwick

Junior Reviews by Gabriel and Sascha Bott

Gabriel Bott (10)

CATCH! is a funny, fast-paced show based on sport. It is by Maxima Circus, and we saw the show at PICA Performance Space as part of the 2019 Awesome Festival.

The show is directed at ages 3-6, but I’m 10 and I still enjoyed it. It tells the story of four friends, three of which are very good at sport, and one, not so much. The moral is that you need to practise to get better.

My favourite part was when the three sporty performers had gloves on, and they were teaching the non-sporty girl how to catch. After some time spent practising, she could juggle!

Something I didn’t like is how some of the music didn’t fit with what was happening in that moment. For example, in a scene where performers were using tennis rackets to make the shape of birds the music was sad, but I thought it was a happy moment.

Another thing that was good about this show is its humour. It wasn’t just people doing tricks all day. There was a story to it. It also was a very real concept, showing someone using resilience to overcome her fear of trying new things. This actually happens in real life.

Sascha Bott (8)

Today I saw CATCH! by Maxima Circus at PICA Performance space. Presented by the 2019 AWESOME Festival. In the show there were four circus performers who did various tricks with lots of different kinds of balls. They were telling a story about how you need to practise to get better at things you want to do.

My favourite part was when they used tennis rackets as birds and I got to put my hand out and feed one of the pretend birds.

I also liked how a performer got to go on a lady’s shoulders with a football in her hands.

I think they could have put in some talking in because it could have helped us get to know the characters better.

I think this is a good show for children over three.


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Children, Circus, Dance, Festivals, News, Physical theatre, Reviews

A little long but important viewing

Junior AWESOME Review: DADAA and CircusWA, Experience Collider ⋅
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, October 4 ⋅
Reviews by Gabriel (10) and Sascha Bott (8)⋅

Experience Collider is a show about two different groups of people having experiences that they wouldn’t have normally. For example, a man who couldn’t walk was up on a rope while a circus performer was down on a patient lift.

It was produced by DADAA and CircusWA and included performers such as Hugo Favelle, Caleb Barret, Evan Gallant-Harvey, Samuel Freeman and Richer Mortensen.

Something I liked about the show was how it was split up into sections. The first section was called Hold, the second was called Boss Together, the third was called Aerial Entanglement, and the fourth was called Train Collider.  Each section focused on a different idea and physical skill.

Second, I think the show overall was a bit long, and some of the things could have been cut out. For example, at one point in the show, there were people being dragged around on crash mats by dancers, and I didn’t understand why.

Lastly, the costumes were really good, I liked the back of the costume of the circus performers, which had a line down the middle. The costume was basically smock-looking overalls.

– Gabriel Bott (Aged 10)


Today I watched Experience Collider at the State Theatre Centre. It was a show made by DADAA and CircusWA. In the show there were people with disabilities (some in wheelchairs) and young circus performers. They performed different circus skills like hula-hoops, silks and tumbling.

I liked the section called Train Collider because a man with a disability got to go on a rope in the air, and I was really impressed by what he could do.

I think I would have changed how long it was because it was too long.

I also liked how they let people with disabilities have a turn of controlling the music. Some of them even got to sing.

I liked the show and I think more people should watch it.

– Sascha Bott (Aged 8)

Pictured: Cast of ‘Experience Collider’.  Photo: Rachael Barrett

Read our senior review of Experience Collider by Robert Housley.

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Children, Circus, Dance, News, Physical theatre, Reviews

Blueprint for the future

AWESOME Review: DADAA and CircusWA, Experience Collider ⋅
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, October 4 ⋅
Review by Robert Housley ⋅

Experience is fundamental to our passage through life. It is how life manifests itself and how we interact with the world.

When significant boundaries inhibit the physical and psychological experience of existence, finding ways to enrich it are even more critical to a life well lived.

The 28 young people in this Awesome 2019 show – half with high-needs disabilities, half from the CircusWA Youth Troupe – embrace the joy of collaboration that has doubtless enriched the lives of all involved.

At the heart of this Sam Fox-directed performance is the desire to create a world of equality which, he suggests, could be “a blueprint for the future.”

Inclusiveness and equality go hand in hand, just as hold, the first of several themed components of the performance, proved.

The simple intimacy and symbolism of holding hands permeated the opening scenes, which had the entire cast and a fair number of the support crew intermingling on stage together. When an aerialist suspended about seat-height from the ground wrapped her arm around an electric wheelchair-bound performer and he literally took them for spin, the night was off to a brilliant start.

Electric wheelchairs abounded as did a range of circus props including aerial apparatus, landing mats and hula hoops.

Movement of all kinds – from dance to gymnastics – was integral, as was a sense of fun.

A film crew kept popping up and occasional shorts were projected onto two large screens either side of stage.

Between the screens was a large-scale revolving door-like entryway, which provided tactile curtaining and featured strongly in the most heart-warming of the short films.

The heart strings were pulled to breaking point in the joyful pas de deux between Mohammed Waheedy and Lila Campbell. Waheedy climbed unaided from his wheelchair on to a long mat, where circus performer Campbell waited, and together they choreographically rolled around for the sheer pleasure of it.

Onstage composer/musician Roly Skender provided beautiful atmospherics, enhanced with periods of live acoustic guitar.

Music for teenagers was most aptly celebrated near the end of the show with a full run of Perth band Tame Impala’s hit song “Let it Happen”.

Fox and the team of professional collaborators involved in the 18-month show development certainly did everything their power to guide this remarkable event and let the experiences happen for everyone.

Pictured top (left to right): Leila, Maddie, Hugo and Arlo   Photo: Peter Cheng.

Read reviews of ‘Experience Collider’ by Junior Critics Gabriel and Sascha Bott (age 10 and 8).

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dance/circus performers
Calendar, Circus, February 2020, March 2020, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Perth Festival: Leviathan by Circa

26 Feb – 1 Mar @ Regal Theatre ·
Presented by Perth Festival  ·

Circa’s internationally-renowned ensemble joins with a local cast of circus performers, dancers and young people for a world premiere circus event.

The art of circus is taken in an exciting new direction as 36 performers hang from a grid suspended in the air and propel themselves across the stage, tumbling, balancing and soaring together. The dramatic power and extreme skill of Circa’s trademark acrobatics thrillingly expose the tension between the mass and the individual in an epic theatrical event that is both deeply moving and physically stunning.

In these complex times, Leviathan offers hope by celebrating what can be achieved when we  work together. This action-packed show connects the local with the global and the emerging with the visionary for powerful new circus production that genuinely pushes boundaries.

Presented in collaboration with Circa, Co3 Australia, Circus Maxima and CircusWA.

More info:

Pictured: Circa, credit: Damien Bredberg

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Circus, News, Performing arts, Reviews

In precarious hands

Review: Circus Oz, Precarious ·
His Majesty’s Theatre, 25 July·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

Of all the performing arts, the circus performer has perhaps the toughest gig. I mean, sure, in terms of job pride, I imagine there’s little that’s more satisfying than being able to say you’re “in the circus”. But pause and consider – you have an audience demanding to be constantly wowed from whoa to go; an exceptionally broad audience that demands a blistering pace to keep all comers entertained; and then there’s the sheer physical demands of the job. It’s fabulous, but it’s also bloody tough.

I was reminded of this on the opening night of Circus Oz’s, Precarious, playing at His Majesty’s until July 28. Precarious begins with a whimper rather than the customary bang we’re used to encountering when experiencing contemporary circus. Set in a polar landscape, the players arrange a series of blocks upon which they execute a series of surprisingly slow movements. The poses are largely static, players arranging their bodies into different shapes. A screen separating the audience from the action eventually lifts and the tempo simultaneously increases but then slows again with a complex aerial routine. The techniques are undoubtedly well honed, but I was sorely conscious of the lack of pace… unfairly perhaps, I was waiting to be wowed.

Would I have had the same expectation when seeing a play? No. Dance? No. Live music? No. But while recognising the unfairness of my demands as an audience member, my disappointment keep nagging. It was twenty minutes into a 70-minute show, and despite the artistry on display, despite the obvious mastery of technique, I was yet to gasp. There was an incredibly skilled balancing act upon sheets of perspex… but because those sheets were on the floor, these talented manoeuvres did not elicit the response from the crowd that they should have. Similarly, two aerial routines, while vivid demonstrations of the strength and finesse of the two male performers, lacked the unexpected edge of surprise that audiences expect from circus.

But hurrah! The gasps did come, 30 minutes in, and when they did, they did not cease. A routine that combined aerial movement with floorwork was seriously astounding, as players swished down a central pole, stopping within inches of players curled beneath them. Adam Malone was completely jaw-dropping with his mastery of the hoops – eight lime green rings that had an uncanny ability to stick to his nose, foot, head. My ten-year-old companion had his mouth agape for the entire routine.

But, just as we were on the edge of our seats, another mis-step. This time in the form of a faux-vaudeville routine of a polar bear vomiting. I’m a big fan of humour revolving around bodily functions, but this was strangely unfunny and twice as long as it should have been. Fortunately this same polar bear (if I’m not mistaken) was given a chance to display her true skills shortly after with a remarkable routine in which she twirled, juggled and balanced an umbrella on her feet. The show ended on a high, showcasing the incredible trapeze skills Circus Oz is rightfully famous for.

Circus Oz makes a specialty of combining artforms – Precarious was not just circus, it also featured vaudeville, comedy and live music. The mixing of these mediums sound like it would make for a packed hour, but strangely with Precarious the end result felt scattershot and unfocused, as though the show could not decide quite what it was. One could imagine a more streamlined performance that highlighted the real strengths of the group – the hoops; the trapeze; the foot juggling; the aerials – while happily scrapping the extraneous comedy and musical accompaniment (which at times threatened to overshadow the main event). Pared down and paced up, the audience would feel in less Precarious hands.

Precarious plays until July 28.

Pictured top: Aurora Jillibalu Riley, Karina Schiller, Sam Aldham, Spenser Inwood, Adam Malone, Photo: Rob Blackburn.

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Five acrobats posing
Calendar, Circus, July 19, Performing arts

Circus: Circus Oz – Precarious

25 – 28 July @ His Majesty’s Theatre ·
Presented by His Majesty’s Theatre ·

Precarious takes us on a journey through an intriguing world, there are remnants of our icy past but this future reality is anything but. Inhabitants navigate this unknown world guided by their surroundings and their own ingenuity.

Precarious unfolds through an ingenuous maze of phenomenal acrobatics, spectacular aerials, live music and physical comedy. The unique skills and talents of the Circus Oz ensemble include extraordinary foot juggling, jaw-dropping aerial straps and trapeze, mesmerising handstands, pole, and hula hoop, all hilariously woven with original music from the Circus Oz live band.

This 70-minute non-stop spectacle of acrobatic mayhem is for audiences of all ages.

Thursday 25 July at 7.30pm
Friday 26 July at 11.00am (Schools show)  & 7.30pm
Saturday 27 July at 1.30pm & 7.30pm
Sunday 28 July at 1:30pm

More info:

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One woman caught mid leap and another on mat with large ball
April 19, Calendar, Circus, Performing arts

Circus: CATCH!

18, 23 & 24 April @ Fishtrap Theatre, Mandurah Performing Arts Centre ·
27& 28 @ Fairbridge Festival ·
Presented by MAXIMA Circus and Mandurah Performing Arts Centre ·

A can-do fun filled show suitable for all ages. Combining circus, puppetry & dance with a whole bunch of bouncing balls!!

More info

Jessica Smart & Yvan Karlsson – CATCH! – Credit: Simon Pynt

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A group of circus performers manipulating a large sheet of plastic
Circus, Fringe World, News, Reviews

Tackling plastic through acrobatics

Kinetica, 450 Years ·
Big Top at The Woodside Pleasure Garden, 13 February ·
Review by Robert Housley ·

Some scary numbers are linked to the incredible amount of time it takes for plastic to break down in the environment.

Perth circus school Kinetica has chosen 450 Years for the title of its 2019 Fringe World show to emphasise the point. It is an estimation of the time it takes for a plastic cup, or bottle (depending on your source), to decompose.

It’s a sobering figure, as is the disturbing claim in the show blurb that “two million plastic bags are used worldwide every minute”.

In 450 Years, Kinetica “imagines a future world where plastic pollution has taken over and rules our everyday existence”.

Consequently, myriad forms of plastic appear throughout the work,  as props, costumes, hair ties, belts and environmental debris. The 10-member troupe – two males and eight females – navigate the challenges of working with the material, which is either integral to, or in the midst of, its 10-plus routines.

Playfulness and humour are also integrated into several of the acts, starting with an acrobatic routine in which plastic bags are juggled while an animated male performer dances to the first of many upbeat tunes.

The hula hoop features in another routine, with the apparatus utilised in perpetual motion whilst a female performer creatively manoeuvres it in and out of all four limbs. Her single foot work while upside-down is gravity-defying. The entire troupe emerges from backstage at the conclusion of her solo, to form a conga line with hula hoops that culminates in a visually stunning human pyramid.

A “bottle-crushing” contortionist shows us how to reduce the size of plastic bottles using numerous body parts while balancing atop a 1.5m wooden table… not a level of versatility required when recycling them at home.

The larger part of the show is dedicated to aerial acts, though a few too many for the overall balance of the 50-minute work. Different airborne apparatus – a corner-hung large cube, silks, a lyra (suspended hoop), straps and a net – ensure, however, that there is sufficient aerial variety to maintain audience attention.

Striking sculptured poses in mid-air is no mean feat, and the standard of these routines is uniformly high.

While environmental awareness is an admirable theme – and there are moments when it is manifest in this work – realising it with circus skills is a challenge that isn’t quite met.

Nonetheless, 450 Years is an accomplished effort.

450 years shows at the Big Top until February 17.

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Circus, Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Swinging cowboys

Fringe World review: Head First Acrobats, Railed ·
The West Australian Spiegeltent, February 2 ·
Review by Steven Cohen ·

The circus is in town and shamelessly clowning around in all its slapstick acrobatic glory.

Following the success of their breakthrough performance at last year’s Fringe, Melbourne-based Head First Acrobats return with Railed, this time co-opting the Western genre in a high-octane, frenzied festival of comedy and gymnastics.

But don’t expect the non-abrasive gentility of Cirque du Soleil. Railed is a hyper-cheerful, puerile comedic performance. Combining clown gags with highly specialist acrobatic skills, Callan Harris, Thomas Gorham, Adam O’Connor-McMahon and Harley Timmermans take us on a gay-themed journey, from bank heists to shoots out and everything in between.

The homo-erotic humour is important.  It subverts the show, providing a sentimental education. But unlike the novel of the same name, Railed is upbeat and wholly unironic, lampooning queer culture with silent one-liners spread across a quadrant formed by four men zinged high up in acrobatic manoeuvres. Combined with the character acting, the show was highly entertaining, whipping the full  full house into a frenzy.

Timmermans and O’Connor-McMahon provided the comic relief with an uncouth yet hilarious portrayal of a unicorn pleasuring a horse.  The charismatic and charming Harris gave a stand-out performance, balancing uncannily upon a stack of chairs, whilst Thomas seemingly suspended gravity in his Cyr wheel.

The soundtrack to this off-off-Western was co-opted perfectly, creating peak emotional mood and sensory impact.

The only drawback to the show was that it was sold out! The venue, while cute and circusy, was not large enough to hold the thousand or so patrons on a hot summer’s night.

But don’t let that detract: the circus boys were a delight, inducing visceral thrills and belly laughs aplenty.  Highly recommended.

Railed is playing at The West Australian Spiegeltent until February 10.

Caption top: Blazing acrobats – Head First pack out the Spiegeltent.

Photograph: Naomi Reed Photography


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Circus, Fringe World, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Bright young performers delight

Fringe World review: CircusWA – Sliders Youth Troupe, Cutting Teeth ·
The Big Top at The Woodside Pleasure Garden, 31 January ·
Review by Claire Trolio ·

Your late teens and early twenties are a massive time for self-discovery. Just as you have successfully negotiated high school, the whole world is waiting to confound you once again. It may be tumultuous but, simultaneously, it’s a wonderful, free time. This time of life is the subject of CircusWA’s Fringe World show Cutting Teeth, directed by Natano Fa’anana and Rachel Bodenstaff.

The CircusWA school teaches circus skills to children and young adults, and Cutting Teeth is presented by Sliders Youth Troupe, a group of 16-22 year olds who make up the performance arm of the school. The Sliders program is aimed at developing skills and providing a stepping stone to further circus training or performing on the professional circuit. As teenagers and young adults, the themes of Cutting Teeth are very relevant to the young performers themselves.

And the craft of circus lends itself well to a coming of age theme. A juggling act represents juggling the pressures of home, school and friends. Floor and balancing acts both explore young relationships. Struggles on the trapeze reflect the competitive elements of school and entering the workforce. This double act by two young women competing for top spot on the trapeze was a highlight of the show, displaying the pair’s excellent technical skills as well as performance ability. A powerful aerial silks performance and a compelling solo trapeze act also stood out.

Sliders is an amateur troupe, so it’s no surprise that the show doesn’t have a professional polish. Yet the young performers met unexpected hiccups with sophistication beyond their years. There is some filler, but the overall package that Cutting Teeth delivers garners respect and admiration. Each of these performers has a bright future in performance ahead of them, if they choose to follow that path.

Cutting Teeth is an enjoyable hour that’s completely family friendly. Children will delight in seeing other young people on stage and all will appreciate the strength and poise of these teenagers and young adults.

Cutting Teeth plays the Big Top at The Woodside Pleasure Garden until February 3.

Read Seesaw’s Q&A with the directors of the show.

Photography by Jeannette Friesen (2019)

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