Urban, Sydney Festival


Circolombia, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, January 15

URBAN is the antithesis of the super-slick circus and acrobatic shows that seem to be everywhere these days. Its structure is loose, its energy is rough and raucous, its soundtrack from the streets, not everything comes off as planned and if your Spanish isn’t up to the mark you’ll miss some of the audience interaction. What Circolombia brings to the theatre – perhaps not its most natural home, either – is a sense of how liberating and joyous it is to perform.

Urban draws its company from Circo Para Todos (Circus for All) in Cali, Colombia – a city with a tough reputation. Gritty images form a backdrop to the action and there are references to the fractured society the performers come from. There’s no doubting the sincerity of their desire to share something of their lives but a fair bit seems to have been lost in translation. There are a couple of very slow patches in the 70-minute show.

Never mind. Circolombia ultimately wins hearts in the old-fashioned way by dancing, singing, acrobatics, skipping, flying, throwing, tight-rope walking and acts of strength, all done with rude vitality and exuberance rather than the cool perfection of artists you know will never stumble. There is a significant degree of difficulty on display, of course, but the feats look as if they are performed by humans who are enjoying themselves rather than aliens from planet Cirque du Soleil.

The teeterboard – it’s a see-saw device that propels people high into the air, the better to enable many somersaults before landing, one hopes, in good order and discipline – is deployed with aplomb and the coup de theatre at the end involving teeterboard and a seat on a long pole is top-notch. The bouncy slackwire act and accomplished cloudswing are other highlights, along with the pectoral muscles of the strong blokes who do the heavy lifting. They feature prominently, and are a wonder to behold.

Urban ends January 27. Circolombia also appears at the Adelaide Fringe from February 14

This review first appeared in The Australian on January 17



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