THERE is a sublime moment in Wunderkammer, currently playing the McEwan Hall, when two of Circa’s performers defy gravity by clinging to a Chinese pole with their thighs.
This is circus at its most breathtaking, and just one of the highlights of Australia’s most renowned contemporary circus troupe’s new show.
Seductive, witty and awe-inspiring, Wunderkammer is an explosive cocktail of circus, cabaret and vaudeville. It’s also gloriously risqué, edgily dangerous and very cheeky, quite literally.
A deliciously subversive guilty pleasure, imagine taking elements of the Jim Rose Circus, Archaos and the Caesar Twins, then rolling them all into one.
“What makes Wunderkammer different, special and amazing, is the amount of heart that goes into it,” says company member Freyja Edney. “You’re not just seeing a bunch of performers doing amazing tricks, you are seeing people explore their relationships with each other, with themselves and with the audience.”
As the performer’s mood is reflected in the spectacular balancing and trapeze acts with which they wow audiences, it comes as little surprise to discover that no two Circa shows are the same. “We have three scenes which are improvised,” says Edney. “That way the show can be experienced by each audience member in their own way, allowing them to take from it what they want.”
Another highlight of the show is the eye-watering flexibility of contortionist and trapeze artist Jarred Dewey, who reveals that the troupe undergo a three hour warm-up in preparation for each show.
“Circa’s work is very stripped back and minimal,” he says. “We take the best parts of traditional and contemporary circus and mash them together to create something quite emotive.
“We use the warm-up to maintain our flexibility by stretching, to build our strength and to make new material. It just keeps our bodies in check, which prevents us getting injured.”
Fragile and petit, Melissa Knowles joined the company as a musician, but now performs as a gymnast with the troupe.
She adds, “I had never intended to do this. I came to visit for a few days and ended up hooked and found myself staying with the company. New circus is empowering and moves my soul in a way that traditional circus does not.”
With humour, emotion, seduction and awe-inspiring feats of strength and bravery, Wunderkammer will do the same for you... as well as drawing the odd gasp of disbelief.
Circa: Wunderkammer, Underbelly, Bristo Square, until 26 August (not 7/13/20/22), 1pm and 5pm, £16.50-£18.50, 0131-220 0000