A picturesque yet gloomy stage beats to a soundtrack of erupting guitar riffs. A perplexed group of creatures turned aerialists and hula-hoopers rise from the ashes of an environmental war.
The highlight was the youthful CircoBats performance troupe who worked seamlessly to capture Dystopia’s theatrical depth of apocalyptic gloom, with a particular nod to one young performer’s entertaining rebellious scream. This troupe’s collective energy gave strong hints as to where CircAxe can take their fusion of art disciplines and this reviewer would love to see more of what they have to offer.
Another notable performance was the spectacular fire-twirler who also offered strong character development from curious halfling to rebellious queen of tame flames. The circus technique, directed by Chantelle Reed, was altogether beautiful and showcased solid aerial, floor, and flow routines. Each and every costume also deserves a special mention where all apparel was bold, dramatically detailed, and enticing.
With original, eerie heavy-metal compositions, Dystopia certainly showcases Scott Reed’s proficiency on his instrument. His gravitas is complimented by a ‘steampunk’ inspired attire, depicting a skilful guitar wizard whose arrangements are appropriate to the show’s theme. Interactions between the entire circus ensemble and musician were fascinating and more of this could help build the narrative.
The themes of exploitation and human control do twinkle at some points, mainly through a royal crowning and submission or defiance to the war lord character by Scott Reed. However, a key critique would be of the show’s storytelling. More refinement was needed to allow the plot to come to life. Some simple narration or guidance from an external director with a theatre background may help fuse the strong elements offered in this production. Despite being true to the show’s ‘dark’ theme, the aura of Dystopia could have been juxtaposed through the theatrical element of light and shade as, for this reviewer, just over one hour of war and depravity sat too heavily without reprieve. A curious element was that either the venue or consistently dark theme simply wasn’t conducive to the kind of applause as per normal for the circus artform.
All fans of dystopian and fantastical fiction will appreciate this show though the heavy-metal music was at times hard to palate and may not keep younger children at bay. CircAxe was founded by South Australian based performers, Scott and Chantelle Reed and seems to be a noble platform for emerging circus entertainers and will be a company to watch for their unique and zealous take on live entertainment.
Reviewed performance: Saturday 7 March 2020