[ATTENDED: March 16, 2013] C!rca: Wunderkammer
As part of our theater-going experience, I bought Sarah and I tickets to C!rca’s Wonderkammer show. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect (but we’ve has such good luck with shows that we didn’t know anything about that I wasn’t worried). The blurb about C!rca reads:
In this exquisite cabaret of the senses, a diva melts into a rope, balloons and bubble wrap discover their artistic souls while bodies twist and fly. Seven performers of unbelievable ability bend the very fabric of reality. Sexy, funny and explosive, Circa presents a breathless cocktail of new circus, cabaret and vaudeville. Control and abandon, skill and humour, lyricism and anarchy all meld into a sinuous fugue of profound beauty.
So, you sort of think you know what you’re going to get, but in many ways that descriptions is kind of meaningless. It may help to say that C!rca are from Australia (meaning it’s unconventional). But really nothing prepared me for what we saw.
The show opens with a woman in a skimpy outfit playing with hula hoops. She picks them up with her feet and spins them around various parts of her body. It’s a very strange opening as it’s not terribly sexy but it’s also not terribly hard. I mean, I couldn’t do it, but I’ve seen a lot of people who can. It was followed by a crazy scene in which all of the seven members of the troupe started doing things at once. It was impossible to focus on one thing. It was weird and wild, but it seemed very amateurish to me. Especially when they did this very weird thing with long skinny balloons–essentially inhaling them through their nose and having them come out of their mouths. I enjoyed watching them but I thought is this whole show just people doing weird stuff like this?
And the answer was an emphatic no. For as the chaos settled down a woman came out and was virtually naked. She had on a thong and pasties (I suddenly thought we were at a very different kind of show) but she performed a reverse striptease. To sexy music, she slowly put her clothes back on. It was rather funny and weird and cool.
And then a guy came out and started falling down. Over and over, as if he had lost all of the structure of his body, he just fell down and then flopped over and flipped around and was generally mesmerizing. There was also a guy (with a beard) who was something like comic relief–he “tap danced” on bubble wrap and did a spot-on dance of the ballet from the video for Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights.”
But it wasn’t all silly, there were some amazing feats of strength and dexterity. Like when the women stood on the men’s shoulders and then stood on the men’s heads. Or, more amazingly, when the men stood on the women’s heads (while the women were standing). The men also threw the women around–hurled them to each other or did jump rope with them. Another fascinating scene was when man 1 was the shoulders of man 2 and man 3 hurled himself at man 2–so man 1 leaped off and man 2 caught man 3 as they fell to the ground. Bizarre but very cool to watch.
It all sounds so weird. But there were some amazing set pieces that were utterly mind-blowing (and we have been to several acrobatic shows and the circus recently, so we know from mind-blowing).
Perhaps the most amazing was the woman on the trapeze. She did an act that must have lasted 8 or 9 minutes. She flipped over, she balanced perfectly, she held herself up by one arm, but her ankles even by the back of her head. It was exhausting to watch and fairly dangerous. But it was astonishing Another woman did a striptease on the trapeze, which was very cool to watch. It wasn’t so much sexy as just an amazing demonstration of strength and balance.
Things got weird when two of the women had a kind of catfight onstage–essentially pulling each other’s hair and climbing all over each other. I determined that the women had no feeling in their bodies, especially when the men were constantly walking on them–either when they bent over backwards so the men were stepping on their stomach or ribs, or as in the following sequence.
A woman comes out holding two wooden blocks. The man does a handstand on them. As he comes down from the headstand, he puts his feet on the woman (who is lying next to him). She moves the blocks and he does another impressive handstand. They moved across the whole stage with him never touching the stage because he was either on the blocks or walking on her–her hands, her ankles, her chest–it was staggeringly painful looking. What a weird idea!
The end of the show had the “comic” guy doing one last amazing feat with each member. They would climb on him, or flip over him or in one case, he held aloft a woman who wrapped herself around his arm. Then he slowly stood up from a prone position–with his arm in the air and her wrapped around it. Jaws were on the floor.