Jaw-dropping physical feats from Australia

Jaw-dropping physical feats from Australia

Robert Tanitch reviews Circa/Debussy String Quartet Opus at Barbican Theatre, London EC2

Circa, a modern Australian circus troupe, has its base in Brisbane. Its artistic director, creator and choreographer Yaron Lifschitz, describes Opus as “a delicate and savage dance between chamber music and contemporary circus.” There is, however, no dance and there is nothing delicate or savage about it

The music is three string quartets by Shostakovich played by the Debussy String Quartet. The musicians are incorporated into the action. They stand, walk, or sit as required. On one occasion they are blindfolded.

Some of the music was “written with heart’s blood.” There is nothing on stage to complement either the melancholy bleakness or the suicidal pain and anguish Shostakovich expresses. The choice of music is odd. Opus is entirely abstract.

There are 14 energetic acrobats who leap, tumble, back-flip, spin, roll, fly, climb, run around without bumping into each other, create human pyramids, and generally fling themselves and each other about with virtuosic abandon and split-timing. In the curtain-call the boys stand on the girls’ shoulders

The publicity promises “jaw-dropping physical feats” and that is what Circa provides in spades. And this will be absolutely fine for many audiences. But there is no poetry, no emotional impact. The appeal is entirely physical, never aesthetic.

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