Downstage Theatre, Wellington

10/10/2008 - 01/11/2008

Production Details

Adagio – Seriously Sophisticated Circus – turns live performance on its head 
Downstage Theatre and Awkward Productions take circus out of the tent

Featuring a blend of syncopated circus acts and cool fluid jazz sounds, ADAGIO – SERIOUSLY SOPHISTICATED CIRCUS takes circus out of the tent and into the theatre.

Epic and intimate, thrilling and thoughtful, bold and original, Adagio is a combination of physical theatre, circus, contemporary dance, music and comedy. Directed by multi award‑winning director Deborah Pope it shows six beating hearts playing with the isolation of being in a crowd. Adagio, part of Downstage’s 2008 Spring Showcase Seasons Change, is arthouse circus at its best, an evolving art form which is only just beginning to capture the imaginations of New Zealand audiences.

Adagio features an ensemble of highly skilled physical performers, unique in their approach to theatre making. Mason West, Rowan Heydon-White, Angela Green, Jenny McArthur, Rosie Langabeer, Asalemo Tofete and Vicki Jones lay bare their hearts, poetically and physically.

Director Deborah Pope uses circus techniques with real creativity, beauty, virtuosity and generosity in Adagio. Deeply committed to training and presenting her work at the highest possible skill level without compromise, Pope won various international awards, among them the "Total Theatre Award" for Deadly at the 1999 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Les jeunes Talents du Cirque competition in Paris.

Music designer Jonathan Crayford has gained international recognition and is in high demand as instrumentalist and composer. Crayford made it to the cutting edge of the New York scene within many genres of music. In addition to performing and recording, Jonathan composed orchestral scores for television programs and feature films like Mr Wrong and Ruby and Rata, which picked up "Best Original Score" at the New Zealand Film Awards.

Adagio is playing at Downstage Theatre
from Friday 10 October, Monday to Wednesday
at 6.30 pm and Thursday to Saturday at 7.30 pm.
There will be two $20 previews on Wednesday 8 and Thursday 9 October
and afternoon matinees at 3 pm on Saturday 18 and 25 October.

Ticket prices range from $20 to $42. Special early bird and group discounts apply. Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at (04) 801 6946 or in person at Downstage’s box office.

For more information on the show please visit or the Downstage Theatre Blog at

Concept & Direction: Deborah Pope
Music Design & original music: Jonathan Crayford
Producer: Marc Tyron
Downstage Theatre & Awkward Productions

Starring: Mason West, Rowan Heydon-White, Angela Green, Jenny McArthur, Rosie Langabeer and Vicki Jones

"… truly mind blowing, displaying a virtuosity of phenomenal magnitude."
Northern News on Jonathan Crayford 

"First there was De La Guarda, then The Dome Spectaculars and now the beautiful Deadly."
Lynn Gardner, The Guardian on Deadly (performed by Pope’s No Ordinary Angels)

Angela Green
Rowan Heydon-White
Victoria Jones
Rosie Langabeer
Jenny Mcarthur

Asalemo Tofete
Mason West

Set Consulting - Joe Bleakley
Costume Designer - Samantha Morley
Lighting Designer - Marc Edwards
Stage Manager - Alison Walls
Publicity and Marketing - Markus Stitz
Production Photography - Stephen A'Court    

1 hr, no interval

What a circus, what a show

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 14th Oct 2008

Not only is Adagio seriously sophisticated circus, it is also seriously enjoyable, thoroughly entertaining and a damn good night at the theatre. The traditional skills of circus performers and a contemporary theatrical sensibility have been combined and shaped by Deborah Pope into a show perfectly suited to the intimacy of Downstage.

In Italian, adagio means at ease; in music it means slow and measured; in circus terminology it is the name given to a specific set of partner acrobalance or acrobalance movements. This 70-minute show uses all three meanings to explore through acrobatic routines, music and comedy the isolation people face in modern society as well as the scary, funny and crazy moments when people make contact with each other.

The opening scene of five lonely people in separate, dimly lit rooms sets the mood. A young man (Mason West) is watching TV; an eavesdropping woman, could be Eleanor Rigby (Jenny McArthur), has a collection of jars; another (Angela Green) is furiously typing a romantic novel, while a third (Rowan Haydon-White) is lying languorously on cushions; and a mysterious man (Asalemo Tofete) settles into his cramped cell with a very large suitcase.

Slowly they come out of their rooms: two moving up and down floor-to-ceiling metal poles with the greatest of ease; the writer finding the man of her dreams on a trapeze; the man with the suitcase putting on a traditional comedy show that is undermined by his irascible assistant; and the woman with the jars releasing music from them in bursts, which upsets the others.

At the end of the day they all retire to their rooms, exhausted from all the physical activity and a finale of a form of musical chairs that held the audience nervously enthralled as the lithe West stood on top of a pillar of eight chairs.

At other times they were held by Haydon-White as she wrapped herself in aerial silk and fell, spun and spiralled above the stage, and when all the cast join in a chase all over the stage.

Tofete is the equivalent of the traditional clown for the show as he moves a piano by magic and he sings, with some hilariously performed risque additions to a straightforward version of Blue Smoke.

He isn’t the only one, however, to get the house roaring. Both Green as a raucous dummy and McArthur as a ballet dancer who makes a frenetic attempt to dance at the same time to the beat of the music and the instructions of angry spectators at a rugby match add greatly to the pleasures of the evening.

All aspects of Adagio have been carefully integrated. It is a beautifully shaped and judged production, so that Marc Edwards’ excellent lighting effects and the two musicians, Victoria Jones and Rosie Langsbeer, are the base in contact with the ground supporting the performers, who are the fliers in the air as in any circus adagio.

Go see!
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Existential physical theatre: poignancy, wit, spectacle, danger

Review by John Smythe 11th Oct 2008

Circus has come to Wellington in many guises over this century: in the traditional big top and inflated domes; on stage at the St James and late night at the Festival Club in NZ International Arts Festivals; as burlesque at the Paramount and as Civic Square spectacle in Fringe and Comedy festivals …

As I understand it, ‘alternative’ circus began in our part of the world back in the 1970s with Circus Oz and the Flying Fruit Fly Circus in Australia, and in cabaret form at Kiwi ex-pat Jon Pinder’s Last Laugh Restaurant & Zoo in Melbourne. Recently Tom Beauchamp’s Fuse Productions has developed the cabaret/ circus fusion as Heavenly Burlesque, nurturing key skills and talent along with Deborah Pope and Alice Capper Starr’s Wellington Circus Trust. [This overview is not exhaustively researched so please feel free to add to it via Comments.]

Paris and London-trained Pope, whose company No Ordinary Angels has worked internationally for decades and who was Associate Director of Circus Oz for three years, has been home for two years, actively engaged in the local scene. Now she brings us Adagio – seriously sophisticated circus, co-produced by Awkward Productions’ Marc Tyron with Downstage Theatre.

The title warns us not to expect fast-paced and wacky acts of derring-do just for the sake of showing off. It starts with stillness, individuals in isolation. What little action there is, to Jonathan Crayford’s time-ticking musical background, is minimal …

A woman (Rowan Heydon-White) titivates in a mirror; another (Jenny McArthur) drinks and ‘smokes’, tapping her ash into tins; a third (Angela Green) contorts herself through writer’s block at a typewriter … A cloth-capped man (Mason West) tries to get reception on an old TV, changing position on chairs in the process; a large man (Asalemo Tofete) arrives with a trundler suitcase and crams into a black box with a bare bulb that almost scorches his head … In the shadows a pianist (Rosie Langabeer) waits at her keyboard while a double bassist (Victoria Jones) awaits her cue aloft.

The metronome ticks on … It is out of this sense of lonely torpor in a mundane world that the circus-related action begins to evolve …

West seeks new stimuli in a gleaming vertical pole; Heydon-White ventures out head-first down another. Immediately the potential for romance lifts the action beyond the display of their nevertheless extraordinary skills. I won’t tell you what happens but it is painfully funny.

Green’s work-in-progress turns out to be a steamy romance and McArthur is using a tin to listen in … Weirdly her tins turn out to hold sounds that warn her where she is headed health-wise …

Heydon-White, alone again, falls asleep down, around and intertwined within long hanging sheets, exhibiting some of the most daring aerial work I have witnessed.

Langabeer fills the air with ‘Blue Smoke’ … West and Tofete become fixated on the races in ways that occasion some extraordinary acrobatics, choreographed to make excellent use of the high door in Downstage’s onstage wall. And ‘Blue Smoke’, released from its tin, releases McArthur from her frumpy dressing gown and socks to reveal a delicate ballerina … "Oh yes … Nice!" cries Tofete, but it’s a rugby game now, the boys are off again with their antics and McArthur has to accommodate the new dynamic …

There is illusion in the way fingers emerge from the suitcase or over the top of the piano, not to mention whole arms sprouting from the pianist … The surreal images of that routine give me pleasure even now. And later Tofete does a neat trick with newspaper.

But first he joins Langabeer in a ‘Blue Smoke’ duet before taking off on his own, taking pole-dancing to hilarious levels. Then he becomes the apparent ventriloquist to Green’s back-chatting ‘dummy’: an especially inspired sequence.

The acrobatic and chair-balancing acts build to a thrilling comic climax in the continued quest for rabbit-ear reception, only to be superseded by a stunning ‘trap-de-deux’ involving Heydon-White and Green on a trapeze: a heart-stopping sequence that seems to resolve the romance issue before the status quo resumes.

Adagio offers a beautifully crafted hour of existential physical theatre, using circus and other performance skills to explore the human condition with an entertaining blend of poignancy, wit, spectacle and danger. Perfect spring fare.


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