BWW Review: THE RETURN Contorts the Circus Cliche
Few things are as exhilarating as bodies being flung into the air without crash mats. This is what you expect when you hear the word "circus", but THE RETURN by Circa is much more than lifts and flips. Presented by Canadian Stage as the last show in their Spotlight Australia series, THE RETURN doesn't exactly fit into any existing genre of performance.
The production was created and choreographed by Yaron Lifschitz, inspired by a Monteverdi opera (Il Ritorno D'Ulisse in Patria) and features a chamber orchestra that includes two classical singers. It works. Watching a woman climb on top of a man, who is balancing on another man's shoulders, while a mezzo sings a baroque aria - is emotionally thrilling.
Described as "a powerful physical poem of absence and separation", THE RETURN loosely follows the legend of the King of Ulisse of Ithaca, returning home after being perceived dead, to find three suitors pursuing his queen. Lifschitz' choreography presents themes of struggle, survival, and the psychology of enduring all of it. Layering the work with classical and electronic music creates a haunting sensory experience. The baroque music alone has a distinct style that is effective in evoking nostalgia and a sense of longing.
There were a few performers who stood out to me. Bridie Hooper, contorting her body into wickedly surreal positions, is an incredible physical storyteller. Nathan Boyle's fixed gaze as he holds his arms open and empty - had me near tears. Mezzo-soprano Kate Howden accompanies the action with excellent legato lines and intelligent baroque ornaments. She sings with a fine balance of sound technique and emotion.
The production is the most impressive, however, when the group is working together. Collectively, they perform acrobatic feats requiring insurmountable strength, endurance and focus. Have you ever watched someone walk across a row of heads? The cast's abilities are heightened by how skillfully they emote while they perform. THE RETURN has taken an act, and created art.
THE RETURN (il ritorno) by Circa runs through May 7, 2017 at the Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St E, Toronto, ON
Presented by Canadian Stage, you can find more information and purchase tickets at www.canadianstage.com or by phone at 416.368.3110
(photo credit: Chris Herzfeld)