Close Up

Wed 5th – Mon 31st August 2015


Josie Finlay

at 10:38 on 25th Aug 2015



Close Up celebrates the human body and its capabilities in a stripped-back showcase starring four superbly skilled members of Australian circus troupe Circa.

Featuring a monochrome colour scheme and a minimal range of props, the production acts as a gallery framing a slickly curated exhibition of the company’s talent. Close Up’s unique strong point is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything else – the production needs no frills, relying on the pure skill of the performers to make themselves into art.

The stage’s backdrop sometimes features slow motion, close-up projections of the rippling surfaces of moving bodies, which adds a slightly ethereal dimension to the production. Aside from that the stage is stark, with a few basic props that appear when necessary – a few chairs is the fanciest it gets. The performers execute a mixture of solo and ensemble pieces in a pleasingly old-fashioned format – many of the tricks are familiar circus acts, and each is met with a burst of applause from the enchanted audience. Lisa Goldsworthy calmly and masterfully exercises control over the swathes of pink hula-hoops that engulf her frame, and Phoebe Armstrong uses impossible muscles to tie her body in and out of a rope suspended centre stage. These solo acts are mesmerisingly simple – I’m ready to worry about Armstrong’s safety when she’s suddenly tens of metres above solid ground, but of course she remains serene, coexisting with the rope in fluid harmony.

Some of the scripted words feel slightly unnecessary – there is a sequence in which the performers take turns to recite verbs (‘to fly’, ‘to catch’, ‘to trust’) and accompany them with matching movements. This section strikes me as superfluous, as Circa's profound acrobatic skills and flexibility are enough to speak for themselves. I enjoyed, however, the address conducted to the audience by the Chinese pole performer before beginning his solo performance. He deconstructs exactly what he is going to do, and why he does it. It isn’t exactly a groundbreaking speech – he admits he isn’t a natural orator – but it’s refreshing to listen to a voice that is rarely heard in the predominantly silent world of circus performers, bridging the gap between their alien world and ours.

Close Up is a blend of the traditional and the innovatively modern: it is energetic, back-to-basics circus that makes for a truly exhilarating watch.


Llewelyn Hopwood

at 11:15 on 25th Aug 2015



For an evening of amazement, there is no place you should be other than sat in a showing of the dramatic, gasp-inspiring circus performance that is Close up. This isn’t necessarily the most original circus production you will see this Fringe, yet this is irrelevant, for although many of the tricks are perhaps expected, the awe-inspiring spectacles never cease to amaze.

The performance begins with a striking black-and-white, slow-motion video of close ups of acrobatic tricks, and one-by-one, the four performers tumble on to the stage in darkness with a few nimble twists and turns. The flow is then unexpectedly fractured as a performer begins a slightly awkward introduction to the circus company. Just as we begin to question the strength of this section, he waltzes into the crowd to continue introducing himself, and the other performers do the same to designated areas, all embellished with interactive tricks, e.g. walking across the legs of the front row.

This method of creating the initial impression of amateur standard before turning that belief on its head is one of the troupe’s finest techniques. For example, the poem with only verbs in the infinitive seems rather arty-farty at first, but soon becomes a lively and incredibly impressive act as the performers throw the microphone around the stage of leaping and looping bodies. Furthermore, never before have I experienced Gary Jules’ ‘Mad World’ being performed on the guitar with the two people standing on the guitarist’s shoulders.

As always there is a hefty serving of humour, and this is best seen in the audience interaction on stage. At this point the four performers turn into four clowns, doing all sorts of wacky things around the unsuspecting spectators, such as pretending to be on a date and jumping into their arms to be held, only to fall to the floor with a loud, comic bang.

However, the silly soon turns serious, as the chairs that were once lined to create a comical human Newton’s cradle then become a dangerous-looking tower, which is only held together by the clamps of human bodies. Gasps bounce around the room as one of the male performers climbs to top of this death trap. The edge-of-your-seat action accelerates from this point, as one of the women turns into a lizard-like dancer on a rope, and one of the men seems to prove that he is in fact a giant pipe cleaner as he springs and moulds himself around what we are told is a ‘Chinese pole’.

Indeed, the Close Up team prove that seeing someone nearly fall to their death is unnervingly exhilarating, and that good old-fashioned suspense, laughter and wonder is all you need for an unforgettable show.


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