Review: Circa’s Peep Show, Underbelly Festival

Forget everything you think you know about the circus. Circa’s Peep Show is a cool, contemporary piece from one of Australia’s premier circus companies that excites and astounds. The show, which is being held at the Underbelly Festival at the Southbank, perfectly fits in with the ever-trendy line-up the festival boasts. Whilst alluding to the skills and wonder of traditional circus, Peep Show is a sensual, yet funny, constantly astonishing show.

With only seven cast members, the individual skill of each performer is showcased. Hula hooping, juggling and a whole host of acrobatic feats all made an appearance. However, a standout has to be Jarred Dewey’s trapeze number. He makes hanging off a single bar using only your forearm look like it takes about the same amount of effort as monkey bars; a truly admirable skill. But don’t get me wrong, every single cast member made me feel equally out of shape – after all, whilst I’ve never tried, I reckon I can’t stand up straight with three fully grown adults standing on my shoulders.

One of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of the performance is the frighteningly small stage. Many of the tricks involved the performers either stopping or landing centimetres away from the edge, something that both thrilled and terrified me. I highly recommend trying to get seats in the front row to fully appreciate the experience. The staging by visionary director Yaron Lifschitz is commendable, in that none of them fell off or died, which I take as a good sign. This isn’t to criticise the professionalism of trained circus performers. It’s just that when someone lands from a great height inches away from your face, you can’t help but tense up a tad. But that is of course what makes the show so entertaining.

Alongside the incredibly skilled cast, the set, lighting and costume design all complement each other and the performance as a whole beautifully. At first, the costumes by Libby McDonnell invoke cabaret and mimes; reflecting the strong links to mime that appear throughout the show, particularly in the laborious and contorted strip sequences, which subvert the sexual implications and make it about the physical act of, for example, taking off a shirt. The costume changes that follow reveal the contemporary nature of the show. The colourful sequinned hot pants invoke the grand costumes of traditional circus, whilst keeping the show simple and modern. This simple-with-a-hint-of-grandeur idea can also be seen in the set, and the wonderful Underbelly venue which is reminiscent of a big top, but in a muted, modern way. All of this is topped off by Jason Organ and Richard Clarke’s dynamic lighting, which expertly convey Lifschitz’s vision of Peep Show conveying looking and being seen, with performers being trapped in shafts of light and moving in and out of darkness.

So, if you’re looking for some excitement this summer, Peep Show is where you need to be. And if you need further convincing, my football-loving companion said it was worth missing the England game. Praise doesn’t get higher than that.

Peep Show is playing The Underbelly Festival until 18 August

Photo: Kurt Petersen

Susannah Shepherd

Susannah Shepherd

Susannah is currently studying for her A levels, and hopes to go to University next year to study liberal arts. She aspires to being an artistic director in the future, and loves performing, going to the theatre and cooking.

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