Review: Circa: Not your average “Humans”

Australian circus company presents acclaimed show at TOHU from November 5-10

(Photo Credit: Pedro Greig)

Australian circus performance company Circa takes us through the full spectrum of the human experience in “Humans”. Under the expert direction of Yaron Lifschitz, ten extraordinary acrobats/contortionists/aerial artists/stuntpersons showcase the very best of the human body in all its power, its complexity, and its grandeur. (Also, I joke about going to circus shows to see attractive people but like… damn.) The hour-long spectacle is packed with thrilling and moving performances for circus newbies and veterans alike.

The world gets made on a bare stage where the ensemble flop around like fish, climb one another like trees, and otherwise evolve through routines that seem anything but human at first glance. The lighting and music choices are exquisite, perfect for enhancing the performers’ frenetic tumbling, and for making their slow, calculated moments of introspection even more hypnotic. “Humans” asks – and answers – the questions of how much a human body can carry, how much it can withstand, how far it can bend… as well as less profound ones such as: “How much can we stress out the audience?” and “Who needs arms? Not us, apparently!”

(Photo Credit: Pedro Greig)

Humans” is almost exactly what you’d expect: an expertly planned out and daringly delivered exploration of the limits of the human body. What’s less expected is the outpouring of personality and emotion that spills out of the acrobats’ every move, and the magical physical storytelling it creates – though I suppose I should have known: after all, personality and emotions are what make them human. They give the audience the chance to gasp and applaud at their most impressive tricks, but also to revel in the beauty they bring to even the simplest movements. They expose their bodies’ and minds’ strength and fragility by playing out intricate human connections in all their intimacy, their violence, and their frustrating contradicting nature, delivering new meanings to these experiences we all go through at one point or another. They are a cheeky bunch of show-offs who balance humour and seriousness as they move through everyday and not-everyday grievances: “Oh, my things are all the way over there now? But I can’t walk! My socks are too slippery! I guess I’ll just have to crawl on my chest/do a full body wave all the way over there, THIS IS WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME!”

The Circa ensemble is made up of insanely talented individuals bound together by a lick-each-other’s-elbows-since-we-can’t-each-lick-our-own camaraderie, and a collective spirit of risk-taking built on a solid trust in each other and in themselves. They are leagues above the rest of us, and yet manage to touch on a whole lot of universally relatable feelings. It is interesting to reflect on how someone who can hold a grown person with one hand, or someone who can literally do a backflip and land in perfect balance on someone else’s shoulders, can get so frustrated in the pursuit of the impossible dream of licking their own elbow. I think that dissatisfaction with one’s own abilities, however great they may seem to others, speaks to all of us. “Humans” has a distinctly bittersweet undertone, and a poignant takeaway that humans are amazing, the fact that we exist at all is a miracle, and the fact that we exist as we are is more miraculous still.

TOHU presents “Humans” by Circa
November 5 – 10 at TOHU (2345, Jarry Street East)
Tickets from $15 – 33 | (514) 376-8648 |

Violette Kay

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