Joy might not be the best description of this unusual Brisbane Festival experience. Unnerving, perhaps.
An unwitting audience is led through the dark and dust of a construction site at Newstead to the iconic Gasometer. The imposing circular steel structure, hardly the most attractive point on the Brisbane skyline, has been transformed after-dark to look more like an alien spaceship landing site.
A century ago it pumped gas to Brisbane homes, in a few years it will be the centrepiece of a new riverside housing and commercial development, but for a few nights this week the Gasometer makes for an enchanting alfresco venue for circus-inspired performance art group Circa and the world premiere of its ambitious new production – Regarding The Joy Of Others.
Circa Artistic Director Yaron Lifshitz has created a hauntingly beautiful piece of art, lighting his colossal installation beautifully while Lawrence English’s strange industrial soundtrack invades the space in a surround-sound sensual assault.
And then she appears. Trapeze artist Chelsea McGuffin is hoisted off the ground and, framed by the stark steel columns, performs a hypnotic work of around 20 minutes. It is a gracefully gauche performance, showing amazing strength and skill in an impeccably choreographed routine. She stumbles and stutters in mid-air, acting as some sort of acrophobic amateur.
It is vulnerable, intimate. She is almost lost in the darkness against the harsh metallic backdrop. It draws the mingling crowd in, keeping them transfixed and uncomfortably on edge as she precariously balances on the trapeze as it were a window sill. The Philip Glass-inspired instrumental pulsates harshly, conveying her fear and heightening our unease.
The heart is firmly in the mouth as McGuffin stutteringly glides head-first down the ropes, now some 20 metres above the rocky ground. Her final descent, the let up in the music, comes almost as a relief.
The audience might have expected a more spectacular trapeze show swinging about the ready-made frame. It seems a strange choice of show, even, from the internationally-renowned Circa troupe; small, tentative strokes on an enormous white canvas. Clearly that was the point.
It is certainly a memorable 60 minutes. You won’t see anything like this elsewhere on the festival program. And it’s unlikely you’ll see this strangely beautiful structure put to such artistic use ever again.
Brisbane Festival 2009, Circa And FKP present
REGARDING THE JOY OF OTHERS
Venue: Gasworks at Newstead Riverpark, Newstead
Dates: Tuesday 29 September - Saturday 3 October, 2009
Duration: 45 minutes (no interval)
Tickets: Adults $22.75, Concession $11.50 (includes booking fee - additional charges may apply)
Bookings: OzTix 1300 762 545