By Karyn Hodgkinson
Circus has become more interesting since narrative has been added to it. The idea of Pre Hysterical, prehistoric humanity, is an effective context for the art of acrobatics and clearly a delight for children with its action, humour and interactive components.
Two bumbling male Neanderthal clowns (Alex Caulfield and Anthony Saltalamaccia) enter the stage and we are taken by their silly antics and dunderhead demeanour. They are soon joined by Chelsea Angell, the female Neanderthal who, we are told, ‘is a much more civilised friend’. The three journey to find food, deal with wild animals, cross electric-eel infested rivers and make fire. When they are not distracted by playing together, life is certainly not easy for them and that’s when much of the acrobatics takes place. Though each performer is skilled in certain areas, there is much physical comedy throughout.
At the outset we are treated to some magic tricks with pieces of mandarin. With the eating of these and other ‘foods’, there is a lot of ‘passing of wind’. Children of a certain age enjoy this anal humour but it wore thin with the number of times the male performers waved their hands disdainfully at backsides and noses. Sometimes the three just play and this is when we are treated to Saltalamaccia’s bounce juggling skills. Then there are the threats in the jungle such as the big cat trap which whisks Angell into the air. During this well choreographed scene, her struggles to get free allow her to demonstrate her aerial skills. During the fire sequence, Caulfield demonstrates his impressive strength and balance.
A highlight of the show is the fight scene between the three of them which finishes in a slo-mo sequence performed to the beautiful Flowers Duet from the opera, Lakme. This is a welcome break from the many high energy upbeat sequences. It was well choreographed though it would have been great if there were more actual connections with each other’s bodies and fake weapons. Angell’s hoop sequence though clever, was marred at the beginning by the hoops falling over.
The children in the audience loved the many interactive sequences in the show such as the ‘running river’ created by the long blue cloth being shaken at one end of the stage, by children. They also enjoyed the performers trying to find ‘Kitty’ amongst the audience – Kitty being a member of the Big Cat family. They loved the hanging banana, which the Neanderthals ostensibly did not ‘see’ causing the proverbial outburst from the children trying to tell the them where it was.
There was always the threat of the tiger coming for the Neanderthals, which created some tension and some ominous red lighting.
The soundtrack to the show started too loudly and so distorted the commentary. This improved as the show went on. Any real fruit, that is, the banana that was hanging over the stage, needs to look fresh. This was a tired old banana. These small details need to be attended to lest the whole show look tired. Also during the fire scene, two of the performers (Angell and Saltamalaccia) came onto the stage wearing coconut shell-like bras and skirts. It was difficult to work out why. Maybe I missed something.
Finally I do wonder about the height of the stage. At about 1.5 metres it seemed very high both for spectators and the performers who seemed somewhat constrained on the space.
This show is highly creative and a fun experience for the whole family.
Images: Callan Harris