Sunday 23 April 2023

Arterial review

Good circus will always find ways to entertain its audience through the impressive abilities of its performers as they display their strength, flexibility and agility. Amazing circus will have this, but will also be able to make you feel something deeper through its storytelling and performances, and Arterial is one of the best examples of this in a very long time. Presented by Na Djinang Circus, the production explores the notion of what community is and the importance in keeping community alive.

Harley Mann - founder of Na Djinang and director of Arterial - is extremely specific and clear in creating his vision and showing this connection to story, to people and to country. While there is a lot to of ground to cover, everything that we see and hear - and even feel - in Arterial has purpose. The scattered eucalyptus leaves and branches around the stage and the way the lighting design by Gina Gascoigne includes red light illuminating the space are subtle yet constant reminders of the relationship to land being depicted and by extension our relationship with the land we live on.

The show begins with the four circus artists (Johnathon Brown, Tamara Bouman, Maggie Church-Kopp and Dylan Singh) appearing together yet not engaging or acknowledging each other. They are expressionless and give the impression they are just going through the motions. Emily Barrie's costume design supports this fragile disconnect, where despite them not wearing the same clothes, they all have the same pattern on their outfits. Gradually, they start making contact with each other, be it visual or physical, and their demeanour also changes; they are smiling and happy and playful.

The performances are absolutely captivating to watch. You sense the strong bond between them when they are on stage as they seemingly effortlessly gives themselves over to their roles. They execute precision timing in their routines where they lift, throw, glide by, and jump past each other, where even one second off would end in disaster. This is a formidable ensemble, but special mention must go to Church-Kopp for exuding poise and great presence while delivering some exceptional acrobatics.

Danni Esposito's original composition and sound design is unreservedly sublime, bringing together a variety of genres, sounds and beats. It's a beautiful mix of traditional and contemporary and sounds from nature and human made sounds. There is also an emotional reaction to the music with Indigenous songs being sung in native languages. I may not have understood what was being said, but it is a powerful moment simply based on the warmth and intensity in the voice we are hearing. Esposito's inclusion of didgeridoos and drums to heighten the suspense of the acts as the performers become more and more entwined and more bold and daring in their acts, accentuates their creativity in presenting different sounds but much like the circus acts themselves, still retaining a flow and interrelatedness with all that we hear.

Arterial is an evocative circus experience that highlights all the ways in which we not only remain connected to ourselves, each other and our land, but what gives us life. It's a flawless production where the ideas and thoughts that are raised during the show and your response to these, will sit with you long after you've left the venue.


Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre, 189 High St, Northcote
Season: Until 30 April | Thurs - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5:00pm
Duration: 60 minutes
$38 Full | $30 Concession
Bookings: Darebin Arts

Image Credit: Darren Gill

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