Qu’est-ce Que C’est?

Qu’est-ce Que C’est? - photo by Aaron Walker PhotographyThis is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. No point burying the lead, Qu’est-ce Que C’est? (What are they doing here?) is a veritable cornucopia of theatrical and circus delights.

This was so many things, often so many things at once: Fun without being silly, silly without being stupid, stupid without being boring. There was spectacle, gasps, laughs, risks, and randomness. There was strength, skill, patience, and presence. Each performer was unique and tremendous.

Under Charlotte Saliou’s direction, every character, moment, and scene was an entertaining display of circus ability – technically proficient and accomplished – but they were also always full of life. There was a compelling level of “messy-ness” to the way the third year ensemble from NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts) conducted themselves throughout the show. Even the most formal and disciplined routines were playful and irreverent.

Assembled on the bones of a loose storyline of a girl gone missing in a bar, four intrepid female investigators endeavour to solve the mystery. At the same time, four males attempt the same mission. The two groups cross paths at the Bubble Bar, the scene of the ‘crime’, and the show unfurls, rolls, balances, flips, prat-falls, dances, and swings from there.

If you thought the cube-ish space at the Northcote Town Hall or Theatreworks were wonderfully full of potential, well, you’d be right. But, the vast space that NICA has is remarkable. By rights, any show should struggle here. The players should be dwarfed by the empty space above and around them.

Yet they fill it effortlessly by the way they grab your attention and refuse to let it go. Sure there are bacchanalian scenes of wonder where everyone is on-stage that you can’t put in your eyes all at once, but even when it’s just two players bantering in-between routines there’s never the sense that this isn’t enough.

Fun, flirty, and a fine example of the talent coming through NICA, Qu’est-ce Que C’est? was an incredible show. It reminds you why people made sacrifices to Dionysus.

Qu’est-ce Que C’est?
NICA National Circus Centre, 39 Green Street, Prahran
Performance: wednesday 28 November 2018 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 8 December 2918
Information and Bookings: www.nica.com.au

Image: Qu’est-ce Que C’est? – photo by Aaron Walker Photography

Review: David Collins