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CIRCA_Landscape with Monsters_Photo by Lisa Tomasetti80 feature

Lose Yourself in a Landscape with Monsters

Ashleigh Went

Running away and joining the circus isn’t for everyone, but for Jessica Connell, it’s the only life she knows.

Jess’ love for circus was born from her childhood days of gymnastics.

“At the young age of maybe 13, I’d been doing it for about a year and I really loved the skill and the performance side of competition, but I wasn’t in love with the competition itself.”

Jess and her family were living in Albury Wodonga at the time—home of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus. Her parents suggested that she try circus and she “loved it from the first lesson.”

Jess auditioned for Flying Fruit Fly and her career as a circus performer began. She specialised in aerial and hula-hoops—skills she put to use when she joined Circa, a leading contemporary circus troupe led by Yaron Lifschitz, and performed in an eight-month season of Wunderkammer at the Chamäleon Theatre in Berlin. Performing seven shows a night, six days a week, this was something of a baptism by fire for Jess, but a time she recalls as a career highlight.

“There was a lot of exploration and digging into what the show could be, and how to continually improve it every single night.”

Since that time, Jess has made two shows with Circa – S and Opus.

“They were both very different creations for me within the company, and they explored a lot of different ideas in contemporary circus, which I really enjoyed.”

Jess explains that it’s this exploration within contemporary circus that has kept her with the company.

“It’s what fuels me. I love working with Circa, I love the artistic drive that they have. I also love the community outreach that we’re doing. We’ve got a lot of workshops with circus and school groups around Australia. We just came from Katherine where we did a free outdoor show for the community. I love that they’re big enough and well enough established to offer that kind of local connection.”

Tropp by Circa 2- Photo by Damien Bredberg-2

Circa’s latest production, Landscape with Monsters, brings Jess and the ensemble to Canberra Theatre Centre in September. The production was made last year in Wollongong in partnership with the Merrigong Theatre Company and examines the human relationships between the industrial city.

“The show itself has no traditional circus apparatus” explains Jess. “We’ve got boxes and giant ladders, metal planks, truss and rigging equipment. It was definitely a bunch of acrobats seeing what they could do with these everyday objects or wooden boxes.”

Because the acrobats are required to drag heavy equipment around the stage, there are no mats or safety equipment, which introduces an element of danger. In this show, perhaps even more so than others, there’s an implicit trust that’s required between performers.

“Trust is naturally developed in circus really quickly. The first thing you have to do when you meet someone is usually throw yourself at them and have them catch you, and that just immediately develops trust. It’s the nature of circus.”

Like any Circa show, Jess says that Landscape with Monsters is open to interpretation from audience members.

“When you talk to people after the show, some people marvel at the physicality of it, others marvel at the movement quality or human connection. In this show particularly, a lot of people marvel at the use of everyday objects. People find it more relatable—it’s easier for them to know how hard it is to walk along a balance beam or lift a heavy object, versus watching someone on a circus apparatus that they’ve never been in contact with.”

CIRCA_Landscape with Monsters_Photo by Lisa Tomasetti14-2

For the performers, the show presents both a challenge and opportunity to project themselves.

“I often think Circa asks you as a performer and as an individual to put yourself and your personality on stage. We rarely ever play characters. Landscape with Monsters for me really takes that to a deeper level, because there’s absolutely no circus equipment.”

“I’ve studied hula hoops and trapeze since I was young, so I feel like, in a way, you can hide behind the skills that you’ve learnt or apparatuses you’ve used. They’re non-existent in this show, so as an individual you’re stripped back even further. It’s me and my physical being on stage, and I have nothing to hide behind.”

Between the raw performance from the acrobats and the minimalistic contemporary staging, Landscape with Monsters is a show you can truly get lost in.

the essentials

What: Landscape with Monsters by Circa
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
When: 6-9 September 2017
Tickets: $30-$50

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Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author

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