Opera House, Wellington

08/03/2014 - 16/03/2014

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

16/10/2014 - 18/10/2014

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

10/10/2014 - 11/10/2014

New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2014

Nelson Arts Festival 2014

Dunedin Arts Festival 2014

Production Details


From Brisbane, Australia comes a bold new vision of contemporary circus.  A blending of bodies, light, sound and  skills. A place where acrobatics and  movement meld into a seamless whole.  A celebration of the expressive possibilities  of the human body at its extremes.  Since 2006 Circa has toured to  26 countries across six continents. The  company’s work has been rapturously  received, with critics describing their shows  as “stunning…exquisite… heart‐stopping”  and “electrically charged”.  Circa’s current touring shows span  diverse contexts from works for families  in traditional arts centres to European contemporary arts festivals. Its works are  highly innovative genre‐bending pieces  that stretch the practice and perceptions  of circus.  Circa features a full-time ensemble,  a concentrated administrative team and  a dedicated circus studio. In 2013 Circa performed over 420 performances to  over 150,000 audience members locally,  nationally and internationally.  Circa also runs a Training Centre  with a workshop programme in Brisbane  at its professional studio, in schools and  with partners throughout Queensland and beyond.

Circa produces quality workshops for children, young people and adults in a range of community contexts.
In 2013  Circa’s Training Centre programs reached  an audience of over 19,000 people. 

Arts Festival Dunedin 2014   
Regent Theatre
10 Oct & Sat 11 Oct 

Nelson Arts Festival 2014
VENUE: Theatre Royal
DATE: Thurs 16 Oct, 7.30pm; Fri 17 Oct, 9pm; Sat 18 Oct, 2pm & 7.30pm 
DURATION: 75 mins no interval
PRICE: A Res $49, B Res $44
UNDER 18: A Res $27, B Res $22
SPECIAL: Dinner at The Vic Bar and Show $75

Ensemble members Bridie Hooper, Gerramy Marsden, Rudi Mineur, Kathryn O’Keeffe, Paul O’Keeffe, Skip Walker-Milne, Billie Wilson-Coffey

Production manager/lighting designer Jason Organ
Costume design Libby McDonnell

70 mins

Athleticism with humour, style and grace sets an incredibly high standard

Review by Gail Tresidder 17th Oct 2014

Rabbit heads, big softies all, lion head, albeit timorous, and bear costume, amusing and thought-provoking as they are, do little to identify this talented troupe, one from the other.  Together they are simply amazing. There is affection between them and this they share with the audience, involving us in various sweet ways. 

Everyone in this crammed full house, including the children, is captivated and caught in the wonders we see and amazed at what the human body – and brain – can do. In many sequences, it is impressive and also surprising to see men, two or three at a time, lifted by one strong woman.

We love the clowning.  Our bear costume occupant, up the pole, in this case without the feet, twisting and turning in an effort to get them back where they belong, and at the same time performing wonderful acrobatics, has us in stitches. And the sequence with paper in mouth – won’t give more away – is hysterical.

There she is, call her the butterfly lady, dressed in a long red gown, such beautiful illusion.  Then, sung to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ‘The Ship Song’ by (a guess) Camille O’Sullivan,the wonder of the evening: a slow sensuous dancing /writhing elegance acrobatically performed in two translucent hangings.  Here is true poetry of the body.  It is rapturous and lovely.  As watchers, we hardly breathe throughout.  (Would it be possible to list the music used and performers also, in future programmes?  Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bonnie Rait easily recognized but not so the rest and the music is integral to the whole.)

If fault there is, the story line is somewhat tenuous, perhaps could be strengthened, but that is carping.  In reality, Beyond is a tour de force and well deserves the shouting, cheering, stand-up reception they receive.

In a programme mixing athleticism with humour, style and grace, the Circa ensemble give a performance that more than justifies their status as a world-class “circus of the heart” and at the same time, set an incredibly high standard for this 20th Arts Festival in Nelson.


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Cirquish cartooning and charisma

Review by Jonathan W. Marshall 12th Oct 2014

Circa are an Australian New Circus / physical theatre group based in Brisbane. They have recently been touring with Beyond, having performed in Wellington in March, and will move on to Nelson after the Dunedin Festival.

Like most Australian and francophone New Circus shows, the basic structure consists of a series of skits framed around a particular circus trick (contortions on Chinese poles; towers of people; etc), each performed with a certain theatrical or dramatic inflection.

A recurrent framing image here is that of one or two performers standing, apparently stupefied, their heads masked by oversized floppy cartoon animal pieces—an image commonplace within Anglo-European postdramatic theatre such as Forced Entertainment, or for that matter, Australian New Circus like Acrobat’s PropagandA, 2010. The fact that Circa has worked in Berlin and Australia comes then as no surprise.

Other wonderfully strange dramatic interludes include the stocky, topless form of Rudi Mineur, dressed from the waist down in a tremendously horrible pair of orange cargo shorts, entering whilst bouncing and flicking gigantic rubber bands across his body, an act as pointless as it is entrancing, or a sequence where the nervy ensemble stand in a line at the front of the stage, individual ticks breaking out to form chaos as when one of the women intermittently succumbs to an uncontrollable desire to lick the head, foot, or any other part of the body of an adjoining cast member. These scenes are a particular delight, not least in their unmotivated madness, though they do create a certain lack of continuity within the performance as a whole. 

These and other images give a strange Surrealism to the acts which they bookend. Three small curtained stages rest towards the back of the main stage platform, serving to frame some of these events and interjections. 

The initial voiceover and promotional material suggests that a focus on the border between human and animal provides a broad theme for the performance overall, but in fact a more typically circus interest in extraordinary and/or superhuman/subhuman bodily types is more in evidence. The general concept is not much different then from that scholar Paul Boussiac identified at the core of circus many years ago.

None of this is to belittle the show, which is launched with great energy and charisma. The skills are high, and the performers charismatic. The question is perhaps rather what distinguishes this company and show from the myriad of New Circus groups around the world.

A key identifying feature is the high prominence given to contortionism. Whilst contortionism is not altogether uncommon in circus, it is more associated with peripheral forms like freakshow or Jim Rose’s productions, than the New Circus per se, which evolved out of Australia, France and Canada in the late 1970s.

The extremely impressive self-fracturing and extreme bending of Bridie Hooper and Kathryn O’Keeffe thus adds a real sense of something beyond the human, their bony movement evoking in moments some of the equally extreme choreography of postmodern masters like Frederick Forsythe. One of the pair (I cannot tell you which, as programs were not supplied) offers herself suspended from aerial trusses (biting her own foot at one point), whilst another balances blindfolded on Chinese poles (with more than a dash of sex, being dressed in a black bikini). Another sequence has one shod in alluring red pointe shoes whilst Skip Walker-Milne walks slowly across her spread legs, forcing her thighs against the floor in a bizarre yet friendly S&M duet.

It takes a while for the men to be similarly displayed for the delectation of the audience—Wilker-Milne clumsily pulls himself out of a floppy bear suit whilst up a pole before later removing his shirt and throwing himself into the arms of a catcher—but in either case, watching the ripples of muscle beneath a thin skein of flesh on these tightly wound bodies is crucial to the viewing aesthetic overall.

Outside of this, the dominant skill set is one of acrobatics. Apparently earlier versions of the show included balancing acts and other material. But the now pared down touring version is basically a tumbling and lifting show with a few other framing sequences and contortions. There is also a tissu act and some pole work (both by Billie Wilson-Coffey), which whilst perfectly accomplished, have little to distinguish them by.

More notable is the broad-shouldered strongwoman and central lifter for the tumbling and climbing acts, Rowan Heydon-White. Whilst it is not without precedent to have women as catchers or base-support for tumbling acts (the wonderful Mel Fye of Circus Oz or the grrls of Vulcana spring to mind), it nevertheless remains relatively uncommon, and helps add to the sense of presenting an extraordinary and unstoppable collection of individuals. Heydon-White performs in two acts of this nature, one centred around having her un-jumble a Rubix Cube whilst the rest of the cast climb on her.

Heydon-White is not the only lifter though. She is set off ably against the possibly even more stoic Mineur, who at one point lifts the entire cast onto his back before wandering off, or elsewhere supports Walker-Milne as the latter walks on Mineur’s head and face.

It is perhaps the music which really makes the performance though. Whilst quite diverse, all of the material aids in producing a sense of slightly Surreal nostalgia, of entering a kind of Valhalla of circus performers haunted by strange animal headed beings. Rather scandalously to my mind, this music is not explicitly acknowledged in any of the company’s online media or promotional material (see, nor in any program. Given that the success of the piece depends so heavily on artistic works produced by these unnamed (and not even deceased) individuals, this seems churlish on the company’s part to say the least (how would director Yaron Lifschitz like it if his name was left off all the promotional and company material too?).

That said, a significant part of the pleasure of the work is derived from the experience of a high-quality, other-worldly jukebox. Amongst those songs I was able to recognise one finds Nick Cave (“The Ship Song”), Frank Sinatra, Sid Vicious (“I Did It My Way”), Amanda Palmer, Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of the Heart”; though this seemed rather out of place in the otherwise old-world feeling supported by the other tracks), and more. Wonderful live music all but this company’s major competitors like Circus Oz (whose bands is one of the great legends of New Circus) and Acrobat (once heard, Jo-Ann Lancaster’s violent guitar riffs are not to be forgotten;, Circa’s selection of pre-recorded music is both apt and entrancing.

The ensemble are probably at their best when each of the performers are crossing in all directions like a group of crazy bouncy balls thrown into a wooden box. The visually cacophonous conclusion of multiple tumbling and pole work is one of the more impressive moments within the piece, a rare point at which the sketch based structure is blown apart by something more expansive. 

In short, this is a fine work of New Circus and although I agree with the majority of the critics that it remains structurally a bit of a jumble, there is much to recommend and enjoy here.



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Review by Sharu Delilkan 12th Mar 2014

“Circus spectacular” doesn’t even begin to describe the innovative circus act that is currently gracing the stage of Wellington’s Opera House as part of the 2014 New Zealand Festival.

Right from the get-go you know that the Brisbane-based circus company Circa is going to entertain you. The tongue-in-cheek delivery of every acrobatic twist and turn of the agile troupe is extremely refreshing. You can’t help falling in love with all the caricatures that they paint with their elasticity and constant injection of humour. In short it’s great to see such talented people but who don’t take themselves seriously – an endearing quality that has the audience eating out of the palm of their hands. [More]


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Beyond has a theme; it’s called highly-skilled fun

Review by Ann Hunt 10th Mar 2014

Brisbane-based Beyond is an incredibly engaging, funny, family-friendly show that had the capacity opening night audience on their feet and cheering. Company director Yaron Lifschitz presents a genre/ gender-bending, highly skilled production that is refreshingly light-hearted.

Bridie Hooper, Gerramy Marsden, Rudi Mineur, Kathryn O’Keeffe, Paul O’Keeffe, Skip Walker-Milne and Billie Wilson-Coffey are the seven multi-talented performers whose warm-hearted joie de vivre reaches out and embraces everyone – at times quite literally. [More]


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Great show, amazing skills...

Review by Jillian Davey 09th Mar 2014

This is a show with something for everyone, whether you like your contemporary circus mild and fuzzy or strong and sexy.  It was great to see such a range of ages; the most varied audience I’ve seen this Festival season by far.  And like any well-rounded show, it was all about the context the audience took it in.  The over-sized cartoon rabbit heads may have seemed creepy to some but were charming to the two little-ies a couple rows in front of me.  The struggle to get a tiny un-strung tennis racket around a well-muscled male could have been sexually suggestive (particularly when the handle gets to the hip area) but also hilarious; the shimmying and shaking of a bum in black silk is a sight to behold.

Though the tricks themselves were of the simpler kind, as far as circus goes, in this particular Circa (Australia) show, the audience didn’t hold back from the gasps, ohh’s and ahh’s.  Particularly impressive were the contortion (such as Bridie Hooper’s strangely stunning straps routine) and tumbling elements (Paul O’Keefe’s prat falls and skull cracks against parts of the stage were quite convincing). 

As a cohesive show though, Beyond doesn’t quite deliver.  The theme is clear: the exploration of human and animal behaviour and how different and similar they can be at times.  The performers are adept at showing some profound moments of a whole range of behaviours from the barking mad to the subtly beautiful. But we’re bounced from part to part without crescendo or climax. The sections could have come in any order without changing the pace of the work.  I’m all for grasping on to the absurd, and circus as a medium can do wonders with it, but even the absurd can do with a bit of structure.

That being said, I don’t think anyone could have walked out of the theatre saying they didn’t like the show.  It really does hold something for everyone.  There will be, at the very least, one song or beautiful move, one touching act or one moment of craziness that will have your heart beating faster… wishing you could rush the stage to hug these wonderful human animals. 


John Smythe March 13th, 2014

What a delighful experience this is. I thought I'd seen it all with circus acrobatics, poles, silks and trapeze. But this show is full of surprises.

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