When one imagines the circus, it is usually images of sequinned costumes, elephants and cavorting clowns that spring to mind. Big tops and popcorn and trapeze acts and the slight whiff of nostalgia.
Now take everything you imagine about circus and disregard it, because circus based company acrobat takes delight in blowing the genre wide open. Their new show Propaganda is full of darkness, absurdity and beautifully wry theatricality, revealing tenderness and intimacy at its core.
Conceived and performed by Simon Yates and Jo Lancaster and featuring their two young children Grover and Fidel, Propaganda has a deliberately lo-fi aesthetic, at odds with the showbiz tradition of circus. Watching this family perform together onstage is subtly poignant, as they allow the audience access to their personal relationships whilst not being too saccharine or gimmicky.
Propaganda presents the audience with a list of morals, instructions, rules and suggestions, an overwhelming barrage of the contradictory information that modern life presents to us on a daily basis. There are several layers of meaning beyond the astounding technical skill of the performers. The struggle of obligation, the quest for happiness in the moment, the mass media propaganda generated to keep the drive of consumerism alive and a quiet plea to take only what you need.
The performance is stripped of artifice and pared back to the essentials, containing mere symbols, hints and split second images. A torture victim throws himself around the stage, provoked by an invisible assailant. A lean body hangs limp from a hook and a sea creature becomes entangled in a mess of debris. As well as being understated, Propaganda contains a droll literalness and is self referential, yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. The audience can see where the action is headed but is still delighted and surprised at the outcome. A shiver of recognition and expectation ripples through the crowd as acrobat let us in on the joke.
Yates and Lancaster’s finely tuned bodies, tear through the space like surgical instruments, sharp and precise. Live music is provided onstage as well as self operated lighting.
Whether you’re a fan of circus or not, Propaganda is a rewarding and surprising theatrical experience that gently resonates for days afterwards.
Arts House and acrobat present
Venue: Arts House, Meat Market | 5 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne
Dates: 27 March – 3 April, 2010
Duration: 60 minutes no interval
Tickets: Full $25 Concession $18
Bookings: 03 9322 3713
Contains nudity and occasional coarse language