What Will Have Been, an intimate and stripped back circus show by Brisbane-based company Circa, has found a perfect—albeit temporary—home at The Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent. The audience, seated in a pit at eye-level to the stage, can feel the floor shake when acrobats flip and stick their landing just inches from their faces. The crowd can see—and sometimes even feel—sweat glisten on the performers’ bodies during their Herculean feats of strength.
Lauren Herley begins the night on a literal high with a mesmerising nine-minute aerial rope routine. Her body bends and twists like the Porteño pretzel I ate in the Festival Village before the show. Herley wraps the rope around her torso and limbs, releases her restraints and corkscrews through the air. I am guilty of gasping out loud at least once, and practically had to pick my jaw up from the floor. Violinist Rebecca Seymour—in a deep blue gown that sings against the monochrome costuming of the ensemble—complements Herley’s corde lisse performance with a poignant Bach solo.
The acrobatic floor work that follows is equally compelling, with Daniel O’Brien and Robbie Curtis joining Herley on stage. The light-footedness of the cast as they flip and tumble is astounding, and their timing is impeccable. While O’Brien and Curtis occasionally tremble during particularly tricky moves, they still exhibit an impressive display of raw power and control.
Classical violin and ambient electronica accompanies a series of single, double and triple acts on a trapeze and balancing blocks. Like the bodies around her, Seymour’s violin playing is in itself a virtuosic skill; her bow slices through the air with equal amounts of grace and gravitas.
Yet the most exciting prop of all is the performers’ bodies. Under the direction of Yaron Lifschitz, and with a dash of contemporary dance, the interlocked bodies circle each other, fight for affection, and make—or deliberately miss—connections. Lifschitz also accentuates the beauty of quiet moments, when his performers are not tumbling across the stage, but are joined together in a silent embrace.
Despite the show’s artistic bent, What Will Have Been is not without the flashy extravagance of traditional circus acts. Case in point: the delightful one-upmanship between the two males sandwiched together like wrestlers in strap match. I dare you to watch one man hang by the neck of another, while suspended in the air on a trapeze, and not applaud.
What Will Have Been is in the Sydney Festival’s Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent until January 16.