Captivating circused classics

When One Door Closes (La Boite & Circa)

La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre

April 9 – 23

As a door slams, a blur of pink races across the Roundhouse Theatre space. With her fairyfloss pink hair and the stage’s checkerboard surrounds, it conveys a surreal through-the-looking-glass-type atmosphere. She is not Alice, however, but Nora of Henrick Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” later to be joined by his Hedda Gabler and August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, each in their own definitive colour pallet of dress and wig.

So what happens when the women land in the same room? This combination of three turn-of-the-century classics is the premise behind this new work from internationally acclaimed contemporary circus ensemble Circa, working in collaboration with La Boite Theatre. The result is a visceral one of extreme and exciting acrobatic theatre. Each performer has an amazing presence, working rigorously in display of feat after feat of physical prowess and skill to present a show of the highest standard. The specificity of movement is astounding, resulting in many tense moments in response to the thrill of seeing its risky physical accomplishments and justifiable gasps of awe from audience members.


Particularly impressive is Miss Julie’s introductory number, set to a throbbing soundtrack of door slams and thumps. Indeed, Oonagh Sherrard’s complex, dynamic soundscape not only assists in the storytelling, but adds much to the experience, taking audiences through a carnivalesque and confettied ‘What the World Needs Now’ to a boyant ‘I Want Candy’ and an all-male showcase from Nathan Boyle, Martin Evans, Todd Kilby and Duncan West, set to ‘You Don’t Own Me’.


Thanks to its layered performances, there are many poignant moments too, often when performers combine to create memorable but familiar images, such as when Nicole Faubert, Bridie Hooper and Brittannie Portelli hang from a trapeze like in Circa’s 2015 Brisbane Festival work “Il Ritorno”.


In experience, “When One Door Closes” seems like a long show of many scenes, dragging a little as its non-narrative mash-up goes to some strange places, forcing audiences unfamiliar with all of the original texts’ stories, to invest focus on trying to understand the assumedly feminist discourse being promoted. Alternatively, these moments can just be dismissed as part of the show’s challenge and the quirk of a work from a company renowned for pushing artistic boundaries.


Certainly Circa never disappoints and their continued contribution to a legacy of exploration and diversification is to be applauded. “When One Door Closes” is a stunning work of art, captivating in its drama and celebration. Not only does it honour the spirit of three 20th century heroines by imagining them here and now, but in doing so through the circus form, brings people to these classics of which they otherwise might have no experience.  

Photos c/o – Dylan Evans


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