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Published on Thursday, 13 August 2009

The queue to see C!rca was huge. Curling out of Assembly at the Mound, it snaked its way around the corner and nearly made it to Bank Street - obviously a lot of people wanted to see this circus show. Well, they got their money’s worth; it’s a slick, impressive show. It just didn’t move me.

Don’t get me wrong. The level of skill and ability of the C!rca performers is remarkable, their balance amazing. With one man standing on another’s shoulders it looked like a new version of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, as if man had actually evolved further. Three performers managed to roll up to the same position of balance from sitting; another man visibly strains as a woman climbs up, and proceeds to walk from his shoulders along each of his arms, as if they were branches.

Yet somehow I became a bit blasé about these feats of physical mastery; they push at the edge of bodily limitations, but they don’t engage. As a woman wearing striking red high heels walks across a bare-chested man, the audience collectively and palpably gasps, and yet there’s nothing from the performers. They make it look so easy, I forget to be impressed.

This is partly due to the evenness of music and tone, but mostly, for me, due to a lack of story or building of relationships. If the red-shoed lady revelled in her domination, or if he groaned in pain, we would feel a corresponding emotion and engage. Instead C!rca walks the line between extrovert and introvert – neither really showing off nor revealing an inner life.

Having said this, the audience really enjoyed the show. It begins with a man being pushed and pulled around the stage like a puppet; he even reaches towards his legs as if to grab the strings. A contortionist extends past the outer limits of the circle of light she inhabits, as if the Vitruvian Woman was really stretching, and an aerialist betrays gravity as he seemingly rolls up the rope towards the roof.

Our senses are tickled too as the performers roll, leap and bound - without using expected parts of the body to do so. Hands no longer climb, balance or guide; other parts of the body are employed to land on, such as the back. In addition, as the performers play with gymnastic roles, at times their bodies look like both the gymnast and the apparatus they use. It was just a shame that - with so much to delight - it failed to delight me.

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