Not your typical place to hold a circus – but not your typical circus, either

Putting on a contemporary circus show in a cathedral sounds almost sacrilegious but Circa’s Eternity is reverential as well as being beautifully entertaining.

Sep 15, 2023, updated Sep 15, 2023

When was the last time you saw someone doing backflips in a church? Unless you have a very energetic local priest the answer is probably never.

Until now that is. Brisbane’s acclaimed globetrotting contemporary circus outfit Circa has done shows in cathedrals and churches in England. They did a show entitled How Like an Angel in the UK and now they have created a new show, with a few nods to that one, for Brisbane Festival.

It’s called Eternity and until Saturday September 16 it is being performed at Brisbane’s magnificent Neo-Gothic architectural treasure, St John’s Cathedral. The cathedral has been home to performances before but never, I imagine, with acrobats, so full marks to the diocese for actually allowing it.

It has been tricky setting up and on opening night Circa’s visionary artistic director Yaron Lifschitz explained that they had to move the stage outside to allow a wedding to take place that day and then move it back in for the show.

And yes, as you can probably tell by his moniker that Lifschitz is Jewish and not accustomed to attending church services. He’s a non-observant Jew who, nonetheless, has a respect for scripture and a reverence for sacred spaces although in this case he likes to joke about working in a Christian cathedral.

“A Jew walks into a cathedral …” he says without completing what starts like the beginning of a promising joke. If he can work up an ending, I’ll be interested to hear it.

I was one of the congregation of fans gathering at St John’s on opening night and we were invited to process around the stage before the show. As if it was an altar … and, in a way, it was.

The stage runs the length of the cathedral with the vaulted roof ascending to heaven. It’s a beautiful space for a circus piece and the acrobats, all dressed in white, performed with respect or as much respect as you can convey when doing backflips and hanging from the ceiling.

There are some heavenly aerial pieces performed high above us. The rest of the show is performed up close and personal and I have never been so close to the performing acrobats before. It was quite nerve wracking at times.

But I shouldn’t have worried because these performers know what they are doing and they did not, as I feared they might, end up tumbling off the stage and into the front row. Praise be.

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The music is always considered and Lifschitz knows his stuff and loves the work of Estonian master composer Arvo Part. The soundtrack for this show is Part’s music (Tabula Rasa and Fratres) played by the incredible Australian Chamber Orchestra. It is magnificent and adds a meditative edge to the piece.

While he is not strictly religious Lifschitz did want to create a work suitable for the cathedral with a nod to the numinous. So regardless of what your religious or spiritual beliefs are you will get a sense of otherness from watching this. And if you miss it at Brisbane Festival or if it sells out – fear not. It will return because this work is sure to become part of Circa’s extensive repertoire.

Eternity is on at St John’s Cathedral until Saturday September 16

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.


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