After roughly three years since their last live performance, the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) has brought together 12 of its students for its new show, Eclipse. Conceived by Sally Richardson, it is an exploration on how the pandemic has changed the world and how the world will continue to change because of it.
Richardson was inspired by Indian author Arundhati Roy's piece The Pandemic is a Portal, where she discusses the various ways COVID-19 has impacted India and what we need to remember and learn from as we attempt to move forward. It's quite fitting then, that the opening moments have hints of a Mad Max-esque dystopian future with a bedraggled tent cover and people living in imagined squalor milling around and endlessly passing time.
It is always exciting to see up-and-coming circus artists on stage and witnessing the beginnings of their careers.
They might not be established performers, but what they allow their bodies to do is still extraordinary. A five-person corde-lisse is a highlight in showing off individual skill while being complementary of the group, and a two-person trapeze act is also captivating to watch, leaving the audience wanting more. The ensemble works extremely well together, smoothly transitioning from act to act. At one point, as I looked away for a few seconds to jot down some thoughts, when I looked back up, the entire tightrope walking apparatus had been dismantled and taken off stage.
Louis Frere-Harvey's live electronic and percussive score is the pulse in Eclipse, heightening the tension of the acts, supporting the story and playing with the artists. The constant shifts and surprises in the soundscape make it just as riveting as the acts themselves. Soprano opera singer Judith Dodsworth, in an eye-catching red dress, dazzles the audience with a calming and welcoming voice, representative of acceptance between communities and coming together for a greater good.
Eloise Kent and Angelica Rush's costume and set design more than delivers on Eclipse’s visual feast, with a versatile tent structure used throughout and their simple yet highly impactful clothing. The gradual transitions from dark and cold outfits to colourful and more comfortable ones, along with the warmer lighting design by Govin Ruben, drives the point that while the last few years have been an awful time, we will come out of this stronger and better than before.
Great circus requires great acts, but memorable circus requires heart and a purpose, and these twelve performers, along with the entire creative team, bring all that and more with Eclipse.
Venue: NICA National Circus Centre, 39-59 Green Street, Prahran.
Season: Until 18 June| 7:30pm, Sat 2pm
Duration: 90 minutes
Tickets: $35 Full | $28 Conc
Image credit: Rob Blackburn