“There is a line between human and animal, between madness and sanity, between logic and dream… We invite you to step over this line… and go Beyond.”
To this I would add the line between circus and theatre that the Circa troupe throws themselves across. BEYOND is a darkly comic, visually rich performance of outrageous physicality which has sharp corners. I was thoroughly entertained and impressed but I was also left a little uneasy and that’s another line that Circa went beyond.
BEYOND takes place in a cognitive otherspace, where the performers embody the duality of human/animal or madness/sanity. The introduction neatly brings us into this luminal performance and it is accepted easily. The way this thematic becomes a throughline can be seen as each act works on animalistic and refined levels. For example, a performer will complete a staggering and graceful act of contortion before becoming a snarling but aware beast. This bestial nature will still be controlled while there was something wild about the controlled performance. This duel natured performance also carries through to the structure which is simultaneously light and dark.
One interpretation sees this as everything one would expect from a circus; the new circus which has left animal cruelty back in the cage. These exceptional and highly trained performers enjoy entertaining the crowd. You will see feats of strength and daring that will keep you enthralled and clowning that shakes the jaded theatre crowd to laughter. When you add the moments when the performers wore comedic costume animal heads it is remarkable how many spots on the circus bingo card Circa can fill in such a short time. The show does not lag and the performers don’t tire. On the other hand, all the fun of the circus could be read as all the fun of fluid reality. These performers push themselves to masochistic limits. A repeated theme in these acts is it all starts off nice enough, like going to the theatre, and then turns a bit nasty, like realising the theatre is an asylum. Not to say that the show is in anyway grim, it absolutely is not and it is energetic and charged throughout but there’s always that thing, that idea that the trapeze artist will fall, that the contortionist will snap, that the clown is laughing at us. Circa is a new and vital interpretation of a circus and this element might just be the extension of the thrill of seeing a breath-taking death drop during a pole climbing act but instead of performing the spectacle of physical harm there is the added element of performing psychological dangers. As the moment where the performer wearing a bear costume emits a crowd-winning dejection or the clown performance hurts himself once to often. Same style of costume, different reading.
This review might be horribly misleading as it isn’t like this at all, which is one of the many strong points of BEYOND; the performance is an open text where the audience can enjoy it on the level they want. In one ring is the circus with astounding feats that collect and display circus tradition. These acts have been seen before but in BEYOND they are used as jumping off point from which the performers boldly demonstrate where contemporary circus is. If you are watching it as circus then you won’t be disappointed. Take your partner, take your family, or take someone else’s family if you have to. On a pure circus level BEYOND could be the bar which every show should aspire to. On top of this, it also works as a theatrical performance piece with honest emotion displayed as freely as their physical dexterity. The production values and the conversations that this performance can start mean that it is equally rewarding to see as a performance piece. There is a lot going on in this performance which goes beyond both circus and theatre.