REVIEW | Beyond

Beyond ★★★★
Regal Theatre | Review by David Zampatti

The last time I saw Queensland's celebrated Circa, it was with the fine English vocal ensemble I Fagiolini. At the time, I wished I could see them alone, with just a sound bed.

Wishes can come true.

As the primary colours combine to produce the whole palette, everything a circus acrobat does is made up of combinations of catch, hold, lift, balance and spin; Beyond is a pure expression of those elements.

The show has a theme - the fine edge between human and animal, sanity and insanity. The performers occasionally wear big bunny heads and play at being critters. All amusing enough but it's not what we came for, or what Beyond's seven performers came to do.

Under the astute direction of Yaron Lifschitz, the most impressive thing is that it didn't distract from the 75 minutes of action at all.

So, on with the show. A hand pokes from behind the Regal's red curtain, then a leg, then all of Bridie Hooper, moving her body like a preening bird. It's a physical overture, a taste of what's to come, and a guide to how we should observe it.

We quickly learn that gender is there to be inverted. Beyond's strongman is a woman, Rowan Heydon-White, and its men are putty in her hands. She anchors human poles of blokes, catches them as they hurtle towards her, stands straight as they scamper up and over her. Go girl!

She's not the only strong one. Robbie Curtis catches and holds four people at once, Kathryn O'Keeffe is all finely honed muscularity on the handstand canes.

There's beauty too. Hooper takes to the air on straps as Amanda Palmer sings Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees; Billie Wilson-Coffey climbs the tissu to Camille O'Sullivan's lovely take on The Ship Song. (Not all the music is so elegant: Sinatra sings New York New York to open but Sid Vicious sings My Way to close; There's even a burst of the "Anthem of International Fringe", Total Eclipse of the Heart.)

This kind of circus plays around the edges of dance but maintains its distinct conventions. The performers work the floor in chorus lines and pas de deux to A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square; the lines bend but do not break

Heydon-White returns on the trapeze with Paul O'Keeffe, and, out of nowhere, he provides the highlight of the show. He folds a cigarette paper into a tiny shape and moves around the theatre with it spinning on the tip of his finger like a miniscule propeller. Spectacle and span dissolve into a moment of infinitesimal wonder.

The hero of the finale is Skip Walker-Milne, risking life and limb on the Chinese pole, but, in truth, it's an ensemble full of circus stars, and a gasp-eliciting night of circus art.