Humans by Circa review by Jessica Taurins
Humans, as described by Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz, are a ‘fairly weak, unimpressive species’, unable to be compared physically to even injured animals. Instead, Lifschitz uses poetry, artistry, and sheer beauty to bring the extreme physicality of his performers to life – rather than pure muscle and skill (which the performers do have in droves), we see humans as pieces of a story greater than each individual, which makes each pose and feat of strength so much more impressive.
‘Humans’ is told in vignettes: some aggressive, some loving, some terrifying, and some outright hysterical. The ensemble cast are all allowed their moments to shine, and each of them have their specialities in addition to blending seamlessly into one moving body, depending on what each scene requires.
Before the show even begins, we see each performer undress and don their performance attire. The following opening scene is of one performer trying desperately to undress herself, contorted violently into a number of painful-looking poses. On the surface it’s simple – someone stuck in a jacket and some jeans, but to look a little deeper it portrays a struggle to fit in, perhaps depression ripping away a person’s ability to care for themselves, or anger at being forced into some conformist box. ‘Humans’ only continues to escalate into its commentary on consciousness and society from there.
Every performer in the ensemble uses their bodies with such extreme precision that even minute movements are impressive. When the ensemble are onstage it can be difficult to know where to look with limbs flying all over, though careful staging, in addition to well-designed lighting, was used to great success to focus the audience on the right person.
The vignettes, as mentioned, are far-ranging in their emotional impact, assisted powerfully by the fantastic musical score. There are slow scenes, with precise acrobatics as though each performer is dancing around another, merging quickly into a spectacle scene with performers lifting each other effortlessly and heaving bodies across the stage. The intensity is softened by some humour – all presented without dialogue – and these scenes are some to look out for, including a vignette of real childlike wonder as each performer tries desperately to lick their own elbows.
While the show is child-friendly, there are also a few extremely sensual scenes, both in setup and just as a by-product of each performer being in literal peak physical condition. The performers are absolutely more than their looks, but the eye candy aspect of their extreme conditioning definitely can’t be ignored.
‘Humans’ is predominantly a floor show, although there are a few scenes including rope swings and aerial silks, used most impressively to display skills that can’t be performed on solid ground. The ensemble are really immensely skilled in their crafts and should be commended for the amount of time spent honing their performances. In its storytelling, ‘Humans’ pushes each performer to their limits, both in their own skill and in protecting each other, ensuring that anyone lifted off the ground is supported and can be caught if – by some terrible circumstance – something were to happen to them.
‘Humans’ is, at its essence, a show where bodies are used to explore thoughts. It covers our relationships to each other, both physically and emotionally, as well as the way we think and the things that are important to us at all ages. It is a stunning use of fantastic performers to wow the audience, and is definitely a circus experience to not be missed.