There are so many adjectives I could use to describe Friday evening’s performance of Circa: breathtaking, exhilarating, funny, inventive, dramatic, mesmerising, hot – but the truth is none of them would do the performance justice. I can honestly say I have never been out of my seat to give a standing ovation so quickly.

Anyone entering the auditorium expecting to see the stage filled with the usual equipment and paraphernalia associated with circus acts might have been puzzled by the starkly lit empty stage – but this show was all about bodies. Entering the space in turn, each of the five performers moved as if discovering their bodies for the first time, along with gravity, balance, the ground and the space around them. The movement was stunning – leaping, twisting, rolling – every gesture precise and entrancing. Next came the playful discoveries of each other and what their bodies could do together – from hurling each other across the stage to climbing each others bodies and balancing on top of them. These impressive stunts drew audible gasps from the audience, but it was the slower sequences of movement that brought tears to my eyes because they were so beautiful: bodies intertwining, stretching out to moments of perfect balance, moving so slowly it created the illusion of a film being slowed down – all lit to create huge shadows on the backdrop – it was exquisite.

The solo and group numbers that followed continued to explore the relationships between bodies and the space around them, as well as the individual characteristics of each performer. There were more dramatic feats of physicality and acrobatics, but what struck me was the tenderness of movement that was evident throughout the show – even when performing lifts and throws that must have required immense physical effort, every performer managed to convey gentleness towards the other bodies they came into contact with.

If the first half of the show was about playful and often humourous self discovery and interaction, it was in the second half that the company started to explore their shadow sides, entering a darker world of power and domination and seduction. The circus equipment materialised, but it’s safe to say Circa’s aerial rope act was unlike those I had seen before. Instead of fast and furious climbing and manoeuvres followed by dramatic drops, this was slow and sensual and like witnessing someone discover for the first time the pleasure and feats their body was capable of.

The entire performance was beautifully lit with subtle projections adding to rather than distracting from the movement on stage. Also faultless was the varied soundtrack and the impeccable interplay between the music and movement. The final sequence in which a woman climbed all over a man’s bare chest in a pair of impossibly high red stilletos while pulling him around by his hair positively sizzled, and the shoes left on the empty stage as the applause rang out seemed to spell out a final reminder: if your average circus act will rush to impress you with their most daring and dramatic moves, Circa will seduce you slowly and teasingly until you are begging for more. Sublime.

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