At First Sight is a love story told through a mix of dance and choreography, acrobatics, magic and slapstick. It’s an ambitious show and with the sheer amount of activity and precision involved there are ample opportunities for all manner of things to go wrong. The fact that nothing did, besides a few minor and forgivable slip ups, is testament in itself to the skill and dedication of the team. The ambition pays off and the result is a captivating, energetic and memorable performance.
The show opens with a pair of clowns. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually find clowns funny. In fact they can be downright creepy. Not this pair. Cute, endearing and obviously talented, these two clowns take two well-worn cliches of the circus - juggling and slapstick - and manage to create a routine that’s both sweet and surprising.
The rest of the show is more sombre; a lament to the heartbreak of love with brooding visuals and sometimes unsettling music. It’s less a narrative than a series of vignettes, the stage dominated by a huge scaffold fashioned into an apartment block where the audience sees into one room at a time. It’s a device used to great effect, with moving images projected onto the scaffold that engage with the story as it unfolds.
The inspired decision to use a dynamic backdrop results in the feeling that the stage is almost as alive as the performers, a sense that is aided by a relentless procession of performers on trapezes, climbing and twisting in ropes, running up and down walls and engaging in all manner of aerial acrobatics.
In one memorable scene, a couple embrace each other in an aerial dance across the whole width and height of the stage. One moment they are moving together, the next they are flung apart. They recoil, literally at the end of their tether, and then are reunited, their bodies entwined symbolically and in defiance of the laws of physics.
Throughout the whole show the clowns keep popping up, interweaving themselves among the characters and providing moments of comic relief. At one point as well as clowns there were people doing handstands, a group of dancers, hula hoop artists and people twirling in wheels all on stage in rapid succession; so much going on at once that it was difficult to know where to look. This was a pity as all were impressive and it would have been nice for the audience to be able to focus our attention on each in turn.
Nevertheless, despite these one or two moments of questionable pacing and the couple of slips I mentioned earlier, the cast deliver a polished performance that far exceeds the expectations and budget of what is, one must remember, a show put on by final year students.
After the show, Director Gavin Robins spoke of the ambitious nature of the project and said At First Sight was an example of the importance of taking risks in order to create the extraordinary. A worthy sentiment and one that suits the times. Robins, the students and NICA should be congratulated on the uplifting experience they have created. No doubt these talented young performers will go on to reach dizzying heights in their future careers.
The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) presents
At First Sight
Venue: NICA National Circus Centre | Green Street, Prahran
Dates/Times: March 30 & 31 (Preview), 8pm
April 1 (Opening Night), 8pm
April 2-4 & April 7-8, 8pm
April 3,4,7 & April 8 2pm
Tickets: Adults $27 | Concession $20 | Preview/Matinee $15 | Child(3-15) $15 | Family $72
Enquiries: NICA (03) 9214 6975 | www.nica.com.au