Circa - an Australian perspective

AUSTRALIA’S CIRCA company has wowed Galway Arts Festival audiences for each of the last two years with their breath-taking displays of physical grace and virtuosity. Their new show, Furioso, which marks Circa’s third festival appearance, will be eagerly awaited.

Ahead of the troupe’s Galway visit, artistic director Yaron Lifschitz took time out to talk about Circa’s work and what audiences can expect from Furioso.

Lifschitz has been with Circa for 10 years; born in South Africa his family moved to Australia when he was 11. What was it that initially drew him to circus as an artform?

“I have a background in traditional theatre and academia, but I was interested in making work that communicated without words, that was about bodies and the way we are in space and time,” he replies. “I wanted to re-imagine circus as a contemporary artform, one that could stimulate an audience intellectually through its performance while still being physically skilful and risky.”

Circa are today feted internationally and each year they perform to more than 50,000 people. However, Lifschitz recalls that initial responses to the company’s work were less than enthusiastic.

“In the early days we were disliked to the point of vilification!” he reveals. “One reviewer wrote that we were ‘intent on sucking the life out of circus’. Critics regarded as us being too posh for circus but not posh enough for dance. It was only when we started being successful internationally that attitudes in Australia really changed.”

Given that the company does so much international performing would Lifschitz say there are any specifically Australian qualities to Circa’s character?

“I think coming from Australia we have a particular perspective that is free of all the baggage of the Old World,” he replies. “Without lapsing into that ‘larrikin’ cliché of Australia, there are elements there of iconoclasm, freshness, and boldness which makes for a distinctive worldview. Also, the fact that we’re from Brisbane is a bit like being from Galway in Ireland because we’re not Melbourne or Sydney and that informs the company character as well.”

And so to Furioso, the company’s latest work; a physically astonishing piece for five performers, that explores the shape and form of fury and in which explosive encounters, dynamic group scenes, and achingly beautiful solos abound.

Lifschitz describes its development thus: “All our work talks to all our other work. In Galway we’ve now done three new works in three years and each one tries to answer questions thrown up by the show that went before.

“In this one there are extreme moments and moments that are achingly beautiful, moments of solitude, and scenes when muscles snap and fling; the idea is of something being pushed to an extreme and then recoiling. It’s funny and sexy as well as harsh.

“Furioso can mean fury but can also refer to a tempo in music. The music score for the show is contemporary string music, I went for a very stringily sound and I spent six months putting together the soundtrack, listened to thousands of pieces of music.”

Lifschitz also declares that he and the other company members are all eagerly looking forward to their imminent Galway visit.

“We’re very aware that Galway audiences have a rich tradition of story-based theatre and it’s very exciting for us to come and perform our work for them and communicate with them,” he says. “Our last two festival visits went really well so we’re looking forward to coming back with this new show.”

Festival audiences are looking forward just as keenly to renewing their acquaintance with Circa.

Furioso runs at the Black Box from July 21 to 26 at 8pm nightly. Tickets are €25 from the Festival Box Office, Merchants Road, 091 - 566577. Tickets are also available through www.galwayartsfestival.com

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