Mention the word hospital or being sick and the memories that most people will have will be negative. But NICA's third year students from the Bachelor of Circus Arts are here to change that with their final showcase performance, SICK. Directed by Gavin Marshall, the show is inspired by Marshall's two month hospital stay where doctors tried to determine why his body was falling apart on him.
With this personal experience, Marshall captures the mundaneness, the ridiculousness and the gravity of hospital life. Taking place over 24 hours at St. Nowhere Hospital, the show opens with a number of patients passing time in the waiting room as they keep themselves occupied. On the other side of this wall we observe doctors and nurses in the staff room, tired, overworked and hurriedly getting themselves prepared for the onslaught of what is behind those doors.
The characters that we meet and their narratives are varied and interesting but this is where SICK falters. There are too many stories told through acting, comedy and dance and not enough circus. The barrage of short interludes that range from a nurse wheeling a woman in labour across the stage or a doctor attempting to enjoy a quick cup of coffee are unnecessary and ultimately pointless, and we begin to appreciate the frustrations from the people in the opening scene, wondering when we're going to get to see what we came for.
There are some great acts though, especially under the watchful eye of choreographer and movement director Meredith Kitchen. The full cast Nightmare Creatures Double Pod routine intelligently combines circus, performance and storytelling and Maui Ryan and Aleshanee Kelso's wedding adagio brings a touching backstory to a character who up until that point, is used for laughs. Will Anton and Eric Quast also display immense skill and coordination with their humourous pole act.
The costumes and set design by Stephanie Howe create a highly authentic hospital aesthetic, one that is overwhelmed with patients, understaffed and slowly coming undone. Richard Vabre's lighting design and score by J. David Franzke heighten the feelings and moods of various ideas around hospitals, from a surreal full cast virus dance to the solemn moment a young woman finds out she has in incurable disease.
Even with the absurdity of some scenes, SICK perfectly presents what life in a hospital can be like, including the presence of a creepy serial killer lurking in the shadows. However the show is too grounded in slapstick gags and sketch comedy and doesn't engage adequately with circus to entertain the audience or allow these graduating students the opportunity to show us what they are capable of.
Venue: NICA National Circus Centre, 39-59 Green Street, Prahran.
Season: Until 7 December | Wed - Sat 7:30pm
Tickets: $32 Full | $25 Conc and Group 6+