Contemporary circus – high energy feats of human strength and eternal endurance with the added possibility someone could really hurt themselves. Awesome. Except when those acrobats are wearing fatsuits. Kind of takes the “he’s gonna hurt himself!” reaction out of the act – which I believe is an essential aspect of the effectiveness of circus – audience fear and awe.

With the La Clique gang currently in town with tickets to their show at the Sydney Opera House starting at $100 or so, this half-price circus is a little bit half-energy too. And it should be, with the premise being that everyone is completely drunk. BUT that premise should open up a lot of clumsy clowning and slapstick – and unfortunately it doesn’t.

This seems more cabaret than circus – and a little more like an evening of philosophy with Manuel form Fawlty Towers than an internationally acclaimed traveling circus show.

All in all there were some really interesting moments – the dance by the woman dressed in red… the grappling of the two pensioners.

Unfortunately I can’t say much about the show because I wasn’t given a program to help me reference or remember much about it, or compliment the aritists or the production crew. The Festival rep didn’t seem to know if there was one – and there wasn’t one on my seat. So I am limited in what I can say exactly about the show, without revealing all the surprises.

All in all, after seeing La Soiree two nights prior and Petit Mal at Brisbane Festival last year, I didn’t find La Putyka to be presenting anything truly innovative as far as “contemporary circus” goes.

Others may disagree. I wonder if they do.

Written for

As we file into the theatre we barely notice the creatures slumped on stage as they silently stare or marvel at the foam rimmed beer glasses in their hands. They look as though they’ve been disturbed by a Tim Burton film – or had a vicious fight with a drunk make-up artist. Everything looks a bit well-worn and well-lived. There’s a band tucked up in the corner – a cluster of stripe-legged misfits at a table in front – and two slumped figures sleeping doubled over on a long table.

It’s closing time inside this Czech pub – and the tired publican is trying to, but failing to close up. It appears that we have arrived right on closing time and he is reluctant to host us… and who can blame him, he’s surrounded by the semi-conscious and insatiable. Before long, he is handing out beer and the sense of sinister happenings melts into silliness – after all, this is circus.

Comprising of a live band, a triumvirate of puppeteers, sexy dancers, acrobats and the occasional clown – this is not your usual contemporary circus experience. Instead it is a dark and grubby style of performance. Nothing slick or sensational here – undeniably grotty, ugly, tired- and justifiably so – after all this is a Czech pub, is it not?

The premise is expanded – drinking games and tricks abound and we are confronted with a string of characters – or character moments – most without speech or dialogue, but accompanied with some earthy, Czech-grunge-folk electronica.

This is a difficult splice between performance mode – as theatre though there are moments of story, moments of surprise, there lacks meat to the matter – it is without the hallmarks of theatre: no character transformation, no message or lesson, no journey. As circus, it lacks the energy or the feats of fearlessness. Additionally the inbuilt tension of “if this fails or if they can’t pull this off, it will be physically horrible” – which is created through a few false starts or the occasional fumble is also missing. All tricks, all acts are pulled off without any tension within the act itself.

For some this will be a delightful and refreshing departure from the usual slick and glossy, sexy, glamorous circus shows doing the circuit. For others it will be a little bit un-suspenseful and too eclectic in its presentation. For me, I failed to connect with the festival blurb citing it as “an intoxicating fairy tale” and saw it more of a hungover showcase of mismatching ideas.