Review: Circa’s Peepshow, Sydney Theatre Royal (NSW)

Reviewed by Alexandra Pedro

Circa’s Peepshow seamlessly integrates moments of cabaret and combines elements of circus in a playful two-act show. The curtain rises to reveal a Peepshow Neon sign above a simple fringed silver curtain that would become an integral member of the cast, with performers disappearing and reappearing continually throughout the show.

The use of stillness and comedic timing is enjoyable and set the tone for the opening of the show. The cast, dressed in white ruffled shirts and sparkling black shorts, transport you into the world of cabaret. There are distinct nods to clowning and as you watch the interaction of the cast members there is flirtatious energy in the air, particularly towards the audience. Some performers really understood this playfulness with their eye line and engagement with their characters but wasn’t consistent throughout the whole cast.

This use of light and shade was mesmerizing to watch as every muscle could be seen engaged in the slow sections in contrast to the fast-paced beat of jazz.

As the show’s title suggests, the true Peep Show begins as the cast slowly lose their costumes. We see a rather futuristic take on the burlesque style strip show where a robotic-like costume emerges from behind the silver fringing and magical hands that belong to seemingly no one begin to pull apart the costume to reveal the body of performer Billie Wilson-Coffey.  Some tiny mishaps with zips that took just that little bit too long cracked apart the audience’s disbelief. However, this was quickly forgotten with the transition to some audience participation. In these moments, the audience are seduced to partake in a burlesque-style show and the laughter was at its peak; the cast had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands in an incredibly well-done reveal.

Following this, the cast members bare (almost) all and the trapeze soloist’s control, strength and flexibility are showcased magnificently. This section’s use of light and shade was mesmerizing to watch as every muscle could be seen engaged in the slow sections in contrast to the fast-paced beat of jazz.

After the interval, we are taken on a journey through exploration into physical routines of group acrobatics, partner balances and pyramid buildings, as well as more aerial work with straps and tissue which are energetic and combine extraordinary technique with flexibility. The integration of these apparatuses continued the theme of the curtain concealing the magic which helped blend moments together. Where some of these moments excelled, the smaller vignettes and transition pieces became harder to stay truly engulfed in, often being a bit too abstract by comparison to some of the more common burlesque-style scenes.

The lighting towards the end of the second act let the performers down, often relying on the light of the Neon Peep Show sign to highlight their skills which, in reality, left them in almost complete darkness. This broke the illusion and rather than drawing the audience’s focus to the “A-HA moments” we only saw the preparation or transitions.

Circa’s Peepshow is a perfect cross-section of circus that meets burlesque on stage. The exquisite physicality of the performers, together with the playful and seductive cabaret undertones, make for a wonderful night of escapism.

Reviewer Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Images: Andy Phillipson, Kurt Petersen and Prudence Upton

Circa’s Peepshow plays at the Sydney Theatre Royal until Saturday 23rd April. Head to www.theatreroyalsydney.com for tickets and information.

About the Ensemble

Jon Bonaventura
Discovered on a friend’s trampoline in Melbourne, Jon caught his big break at the age of 12, working as a stunt double for Warner Brothers Where The Wild Things Are.
After over a decade in gymnastics, Jon went on to study at the National Institute of Circus Arts, specialising in rope. Jon graduated in 2014 and began touring independent projects around Australia before performing internationally with some of the country’s best circus companies – Circa, Casus and Circus Oz.
Jon can be found hiding in a cafe, hanging from his rope or standing on people all around the world.

Holly-Rose Boyer
Growing up in Albury, Holly-Rose was introduced to dance at the age of two and fell in love with all things performing after joining her local cheer and dance studio. In 2014, Holly-Rose auditioned for a place in the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, where she trained in handstands, hand to hand, aerial straps and tumbling under the mentorship of Loic Marques and Nick Hutchinson.
During her time at the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Holly-Rose toured JUNK both in Australia and internationally. She also took part in Sydney Festival’s Nanjing Project, while travelling to Melbourne most weekends for additional dance training and performances. Graduating in 2021, Holly-Rose packed her life into two suitcases and moved to Brisbane to start the next chapter with Circa.
Outside of circus, Holly-Rose loves swimming at the beach and dogs, especially pugs.

Rhiannon Cave Walker
Rhiannon began training with the Spaghetti Circus, Youth Circus Family in Mullumbimby from the age of 4. At 18, Rhiannon was accepted into DOCH, School of Dance and Circus in Stockholm Sweden. Here, Rhiannon specialised in hand balancing and hand to hand flying, focusing on a unique movement quality and research approach to my circus disciplines.
After 3 years of training Rhiannon graduated with a BA in Circus and was asked to join Australian company Gravity & Other Myths, with whom she developed and toured the show A Simple Space internationally for 2 years. During this time Rhiannon also co-created another small award-winning show Cadence which planted the seed to eventually co-create the successful circus company Arts House.
Rhiannon joined the Circa ensemble in March 2020.

Keaton Hentoff-Killian
Keaton was born straight into a circus family, first appearing on stage at just one month old. Unlike his siblings, circus didn’t come naturally to Keaton. Growing up he was very adamant he wanted to be a librarian or something else equally relaxing. However, as the years went by his other interests just couldn’t keep up with his growing passion for circus.
Keaton graduated high school a year early so he could attend École Nationale de Cirque, where he specialised in tight wire with complementary disciplines in hoop diving and Chinese pole. He has worked with different companies including Circus Flora, Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Jean Coutu, Circus Harmony, Zoppe Circus and many more.
Keaton joined Circa just after he graduated in June 2016 and has since performed in numerous shows and creations including What Will Have Been and Humans.

Gerramy Marsden
Gerramy started his circus training at the age of 14, joining a youth circus based in Queensland. After discovering a natural talent for object manipulation, it was not long before he found himself performing seasoned shows at different venues from the Brisbane Powerhouse to the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
Gerramy completed a Bachelor of Circus Arts, studying at the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA), where he further advanced his training in the art form of acrobatic basing and rolla bolla.
Gerramy has been performing with Circa since 2014.

Alice Muntz
Alice joined The Flying Fruit Fly Circus when she was eight years old. During her ten years at Fruit Flies she performed in a number of productions and was involved in workshops, teaching and a technical traineeship at the neighbouring theatre company, Hot House. These experiences took Alice all around the country, leaving her hooked.
Alice graduated in 2010 and joined Circa at the age of 18. Since then, Alice has toured the world, performing in many Circa productions, including Wunderkammer, Opus and Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show. Alice has performed with Company 2, and Gravity and Other Myths as an acrobat/flyer, specialising in static trapeze, duo trapeze, diabolo, hula hoop, clowning and dance (swing, contemporary).
Alice’s passion as a performing artist is to interrogate, explore and share, experiences, stories and ideas using circus as a medium.

Lachlan Sukroo
In an effort to curb some of Lachlan’s seemingly boundless energy, his mother enrolled him in Canberra’s Warehouse Circus at the age of 8. After graduating from Warehouse’s Emerging Artist Program, Lachlan cofounded an independent circus troupe named Poncho Circus. Lachlan performed with Poncho for a year before deciding that a career in circus was definitely more appealing than sitting behind a desk.
He attended the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) studying Chinese pole, teeterboard and group acrobatics. After graduating, he performed with Circus Oz for two years performing internationally and around Australia before joining the Circa Ensemble in January 2019.

Billie Wilson-Coffey
Billie discovered Spaghetti Circus at the age of 11 before moving to Melbourne to study at the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) in 2007. In her graduating year, Billie made her international debut at the 4th World Circus Festival in Moscow. Billie joined Circa as a guest artist in 2011 for the world premiere of Nocturne in South Korea, whilst continuing her solo work performing in cabarets and festivals nationwide.
Becoming a Circa ensemble member at Circa in 2014, Billie toured How Like an Angel before an eight-month residency at the Chameleon Theatre in Berlin performing Beyond.

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