Animals bring 'wow' to festival

00:58, Aug 20 2014
Meg Howie
SPECTACULAR: A scene from the surreal Circa Ensemble show Beyond.

As the Nelson Arts Festival 2014 draws closer, we are all making choices about which shows to go to. Over the next few weeks, Kim Chambers highlights some of the performances coming our way.

Yaron Lifschitz was napping when he had his lightbulb moment for the characters in his latest circus show creation, Beyond.

"I was in Paris, having a rare afternoon nap with my partner, and I shook her awake about 5pm and yelled into her face ‘they're all animals!' I was quite excited," recalls Lifschitz, the artistic director of internationally-acclaimed Australian contemporary circus company Circa.

He is talking about the giant fluffy rabbit heads and bear costume which the highly skilled acrobats don in Circa's newest offering. Beyond will feature in this year's Nelson Arts Festival, straight from a hit season in Edinburgh.

Festival director Sophie Kelly describes Beyond as "a jewel" in the festival's 20th birthday crown. The show is currently wowing audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with its dynamic circus acts, like trapeze and Chinese pole with multiple rabbit heads, Rubik's cubes and blindfolds, set to a bewitching mix of show tunes, ballads and electronica.

Beyond is surreal - and spectacular. The acrobats explore the inner animal within us and, as Lifschitz explains, while there are always stories to circus work "we just choose not to tell them in a straight way". "Beyond is a series of journeys the different characters take through the course of the show," he says. "What people are responding to more than stories is that it [Beyond] is a very rich, warm and surreal playful world."


He says circus work is quite abstract and physically hard-edged but believes Beyond is Circa's kind of The Nutcracker. "It's full of personality, play and wonder and a really funny show."

He believes circus work is naturally theatrical and he set out to include "new flavours" in Beyond, to create a quirky yet sophisticated show. His brainwave to include animal elements in the show was a way of showing the "inner animal" of people. "I'd been trying to work out how to get this texture into the show where there was a playful surrealness, but also something that wasn't for the hell of it," he says. "The bunny head became an externalisation of that."

Those giant bunny heads he refers to are worn, skilfully, by a couple of performers in the show.

Beyond performed in Wellington earlier this year as part of the New Zealand Festival, where it earned rave reviews.

Lifschitz says "wonder, amazement and wow" are integral parts of circus, and people's expectations for amazement had increased significantly in the past 10 years. But Lifschitz has obviously found the formula.

The Nelson Mail