★★★★☆ | Circa’s Peepshow – Underbelly’s Spiegeltent

Toned bodies, remarkable feats of athleticism, raw performances and a winning sense of humour make for an exhilarating evening of the unexpected in Circa’s Peepshow at the Underbelly’s Spiegeltent. Blending breathtaking gymnastics with an air of the unexpected, “Peep Show” is an evening out unlike any other.

Circa Contemporary Circus is one of the world’s leading performance companies – founded in Brisbane, Australia in 2004. Running a training centre alongside their touring performances, they’re a company committed to training and developing the next generation of performers – allowing them to encourage artists of exceptional talent, and explaining why Circa have had sell-out shows at the Underbelly over the last few years.

The title “Peep Show” may bring to mind something rather sordid, but that certainly isn’t the case here – the immediacy of the staging in the beautiful Spiegeltent ensuring that both the audience and the performers can see each other at all times – allowing a closeness and immediacy perhaps best highlighted by the regular gasps heard when a performer landed close to an audience member.

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That’s not to say the show isn’t sexy – anything with ridiculously muscled performers in various states of undress is going to give the majority of the audience a thrill, but the sexiness is balanced with a ridiculous sense humour and strong elements of the unexpected that are as surprising as they are entertaining. The unpredictability of some moments adds a tension to the performance that isn’t often found in such circus/burlesque shows, and frequently left the audience a little unsure of what to do – nervous murmurings replacing applause on more than a few occasions. Certainly not a bad thing as far as I’m concerned, adding a real air of originality and surprise to a genre that can be a little bit samey at times.

With no plot and very few props, the focus never lets up on the performers – but this multi-talented lot don’t let the pressure get to them for a moment, and all show remarkable flexibility, not just as athletes but performers, switching between comedy, dance, physical theatre and pure circus at the drop of a hat. David Trappes is a particular standout in this his debut show with Circa – a wonderfully expressive face allowing him to make the most of the comedic elements in the piece, and both Jessica Connell and Jarred Dewey prove magnetic during periods spent alone on the stage. With not a weak link amongst them, it’s a shame that there aren’t more moments when the entire cast are on stage – as their movements as a group are slick, mesmerising and clearly the product of a bond built over a long period of development.

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Some aspects of the show do feel a little unfinished, but the rapid pace of the show ensures that nothing drags for long – and the standing ovation at the end showed that the audience clearly enjoyed this spectacular combination of performance and physicality.
Clever, contemporary and completely original, Circa’s Peepshow is a great performance powered solely by a fantastically talented bunch of performers. It’s a great addition to Underbelly’s line-up this year and I heartily recommend giving it a watch.

About the author: Luke Marlowe
Country boy in London - bearded, bookish and bumbling. Reader, writer and compulsive Instagrammer