Circa, the pioneering Australian circus company have been at the forefront of the art form since its conception in 2004. Lead by Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz, Circa create work that pushes the boundaries of circus, movement, dance and theatre, and have performed across six continents in thirty-nine countries. Fresh from a strong season at Sydney Festival with their latest production Humans, internationally acclaimed Circa are all set to storm the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Ten acrobats go on a heart-stopping journey to explore the human form, risking their bodies in a bid to understand the connection between aspiration and individuality. Humans is a love letter to our endangered species, and so travels the line between morality and mortality – a quest to challenge the ensemble like never before.

The cast take to the stage as the audience filter in, removing their shoes and undressing casually. Although they share the same space, each seem to possess a unique performative autonomy. Guided by rather abrupt blackouts and changes in music, members of the ensemble begin to bend at impossible angles. The flexibility of both male and female performers is astonishing – particularly Birdie Hooper whose abilities as a contortionist appear to defy her own anatomy.

Not only do the company work hard to transcend their physical barriers, but also to entertain and surpass thresholds of pain. They test each-other and themselves, deliberately slinging a companion to the floor by his nostrils, or indeed, standing on his neck. The display of balance and strength is most impressive, and scenes composed of the entire ensemble are highly dynamic and innovative. In contrast, episodes that contain only one or few performers are attacked at a high speed, which doesn’t give its audience time to appreciate their technique and offers little opportunity for the acrobats to fully execute their choreography.

Trust, self-control, and manipulation are examined by each of the performers in their determination to complete futile tasks. They willingly throw themselves at failure, but continue to find alternative ways to pursue the unthinkable, which exhibits a good use of humour. Highly stylised, Humans has no discernible narrative. Speech is used only once throughout the performance, which, although entertaining, seemed out of place. In addition, each routine is accompanied by a separate piece of music, which added to the inconsistency of the onstage climate.

In its entirety, the piece is aesthetically incoherent. There is no doubting the skill and talent possessed by the troupe, but it seems that the problem lies within the direction. A number of elements are remarkable, but the production would benefit from further rehearsal and refinement to achieve a more consistent overall objective.

Circa: Humans is playing at the Underbelly Circus Hub until August 26. For more information and tickets, see www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/circa-humans