‘She’ sings

Love-Song-Circus (Kin Music)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

March 4 – 8


“Love-Song-Circus” is a wonderful experience that represents all that is rewarding about theatrical collaboration, with songstress Katie Noonan joining with internationally renowned Brisbane-based company Circa, to present a deliciously divine artistic endeavour that is a privilege to experience.

The show, which was conceptualised and composed by Noonan, tells the largely unheard stories of convict women; the work was inspired by coins in the National Museum exhibition, ‘Love Tokens’, which showcased pennies that convicts engraved with messages and images for the loved ones they left behind. And the resulting “Love-Song-Circus” is an interesting way of sharing these stories, largely silenced to the annals of history, offering a profound glimpse into the broken but fierce hearts of women in cruel colonial times.

With songs such as ‘Janet” and ‘Space Between Us’, reflecting on the untold sadness of mothers forced to abandon their children, many mothers in the audience will be moved to tears. The mournful poignancy of these laments perfectly showcases the hauntingly exquisite melodies of the Aria Award winning, platinum selling artist and her performance is a flawless one, impossibly beautiful (to quote Kate Ceberano) and innately enthral as her  resonates in the air like the reverberating ting of a wine glass tapped. It is a versatile sound that is angelic and melancholy, but also feisty and full of the flavours of folk tradition in lively Irish ditties such as ‘Ellen’.

Indeed, the show includes a range of tunes from gloomy ballads to energetic ditties, reflecting the contrasting emotions of the work, in every instance brought to life, not just by Noonan’s voice, but the accomplished musicianship of the accompanying Gossamer string quartet, piano, double bass and guitar/banjo players.

From the moment it begins, “Love-Song-Circus” makes its aesthetic feast apparent. Bathed in the beauty of nuanced lighting, Noonan’s vocals soar as Circa contemporary circus acrobat/aerialists literally emerge from the darkness, twisting and turning to reveal peeks of red underskirt, creating astounding shapes to be appreciated by their awed audience. The impressive skills of these performers, whose vignettes represent the physical strength of the women convicts, compliment the music; their graceful acts navigate the line between strength and tenderness, adding to the work’s evocation.

“Love-Song-Circus” is a gorgeous, glorious work of art that serves as both a tribute to and a celebration of the strength and sacrifice of convict women and a moving meditation of musical brilliance. It is fitting perhaps that Noonan speaks no words to the audience during the show; it should perhaps be considered as a monologue, rather than a sum of its musical parts, for, although the songs provide snapshots into varied fierce hearts, holistically they need to be combined to really allow ‘her’ to sing.

A celebration of strength and skill

Circa Zoo (Judith Wright Centre)

Judith Wright Centre, Performance Space

December 1

At last month’s World Theatre Festival 2014 launch, Artistic Director Kris Steward referred to Brisbane as a circus city. And with performance pedigree such as that of leading Australian contemporary circus, Circa this is certainly the case. Since 2006, Circa has toured its innovative performances across the globe to critical acclaim. Behind the scenes of its mainstage triumphs, however, is a youth workshop program and it was its youth performance troupe that was on display last weekend, presenting two shows to an almost full house of supportive audience members, as part of its Training Centre showcase.

“UpDownUp”  is an out-the-box style of show, literally, as it features nine nimble performers of various ages emerging from a large box to balance, tumble, flip and manically hula-hoop in a series of gymnastic moves. And while ensemble synchronicity may still be developing, the skill of the young performers is undeniable. Then there is “Brink” which begins with a single spot-lit dancer as hint of the focussed acts to follow. With lithe movements, performers use the traditions of the circus to impress, particularly through their rope and aerial work. Indeed, the whole show is not so much a circus as a celebration of strength and skill (and balance that would impress any yoga master).

While all performers were given chance to showcase their variety of skills over the 85 minutes of “Circa Zoo”, the show could have been more succinct. Choreography is clichéd at times, however, this suits the comic tones of some routines and the consequential vaudeville flavour is playful and fun. The enigmatic soundtrack, which features both artsy and upbeat remixes of familiar songs, is another highlight.

Though stripped back in its presentation style, the “Circa Zoo” showcase still revealed plenty of compelling moments. The calibre of talent on show indicates that the future of our circus city is indeed in capable hands.

*A review of this show also appears on the XS Entertainment website.