- Donald Hutera
- 5 August 2018
Exceptional and absorbing circus two-hander
The performer David Carberry, whose credits include Circa and Casus, cooked up and directed (with Chelsea McGuffin) this exceptionally engaging, subtle, absorbing and thematically elusive work of circus-theatre for Australia's Company 2. Inspiration came from classic literature, but whether or not you're familiar with Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground doesn't matter. What counts is how well Carberry and a small creative team, including fellow cast member Alice Muntz, have used that source material as a springboard.
This is circus based on character traits almost as much as crowd-wowing skills. Carberry, handsome and limber, is an inarticulate and hyper-sensitive male. Muntz – rather unattainable, somewhat manipulative, incredibly lithe – is the woman in his orbit. Or vice-versa. The nimble pair meet, with him trying to infiltrate her hula hoop. Later she tries to speak but he, irritatingly, keeps interrupting her physically. They're like each other's obstacles. The tensions between them outweigh accord, and yet they can't keep long apart. And their mutual sense of trust is quietly thrilling. He loops her round and round his body, and there's a lovely sequence with them both balanced on their feet atop glass bottles. Another, darkly witty bit has Muntz seeking help after secreting herself inside a coffin-like box, like a woman ready to be sliced in half.
Carberry slips some quotes from Dostoyevsky into the mix, while both he and Muntz dabble at playing instruments without making a big deal of it. They also take physical risks. When Carberry flips backwards onto a trapeze, ending up hooked by his ankles, some members of the audience gasp. The show as a whole wears its intellectual pretensions lightly, which is likewise how the two performers deploy their talent. They make what they do matter. To quote the woman sitting next to me after it ended, 'I don't know what that was, but it was great.'
Assembly Roxy, until 27 Aug (not 8, 13, 20), 1.40pm, £13 (£11).