As the gorgeous voices of the I Fagiolini ensemble caress the audience into subdued anticipation and the lights come up on gracefully elegant Circa acrobats, you can't help but sense the spiritual nature of this show.
The Winthrop Hall at the University of Western Australia was the perfect venue in which to stage the world premiere of a show destined for performance in cathedrals during the London Olympics. The voices of the ensemble literally soar alongside the bodies of the acrobats into the lofty heights of the rafters above.
The performance is set in the round, with all audience members getting a bird's eye view of the action unfolding on the central rectangular stage.
How Like An Angel will remind you of the miracles of the human body and what its true capabilities are when stretched to the extreme. The Circa performers move with stealth and purpose. For the most part they are light on their feet, springing effortlessly from one impossible position to another, other times they are literally throwing themselves bodily at the ground, causing thunderous noise and worried murmurs from onlookers.
Renaissance inspired vocal group I Fagiolini performed a number of beautiful pieces that were interspersed with sonic music. This contrast added variety and freshness to the evolving performance. My favourite pieces by the ensemble were Thomas Tallis' Gaude gloriosa and the Zulu a cappella Umsindisi by composer Bheka Dlamini. As much as I enjoyed Umsindisi it did seem oddly placed, being far more upbeat and modern than other songs performed.
As I gave in to the unfolding physical feats in front of me, I couldn't help but marvel at the ability of theatre to relax one's mind and provide an escape from everyday mundane life. I did however spare a thought for the acrobats who quivered, tensed and sweated, putting themselves through tortuous routines for my enjoyment.
How Like An Angel soared towards a climactic ending, getting more impressive as the evening progressed. Amazing balancing acts started at ground level and became increasingly perilous as the acrobats headed for the rafters, performing stunts from two and three storeys high. The audience became increasingly vocal, gasping and clapping in response to awe inspiring tricks.
Among my favourite elements were the rope performances where Circa performer's literally tied themselves in knots at great heights. I particularly liked the use of the silk drapes which one female performer simply walked up and then hung from above our heads. As enjoyable as it was, butterflies did back flips in my stomach as I watched with apprehension. That feeling only intensified when one of the male acrobats climbed onto the lighting catwalk and jumped onto crash mats directly in front of me.
How Like An Angel is a celebration of the strength and flexibility of the human body and was very well received by an appreciative audience. Brisbane's contemporary circus troupe Circa was formed in 2006 and has toured to over 22 countries. I Fagiolini is renowned for its innovative staged productions of Renaissance and Baroque music theatre works and in 2005 the group received the Ensemble Prize from the Royal Philharmonic Society. How Like An Angel was brought to life by Circa Artistic Director, Yaron Lifschitz and I Fagiolini Musical Director, Robert Hollingworth.
2012 Perth International Arts Festival
How Like An Angel
Directed by Yaron Lifschitz
Venue: Winthrop Hall | University of Western Australia
Dates: Feb 29 - Mar 3, 2012
Tickets: $52.50 – $25