Review / Strain evident in risky circus show

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The ensemble. Photo: Andrew Sikorski.

“L’Entreprise du Risque”, created for Belco Arts by Sammy Moynihan, Belconnen Arts Centre, until September 11. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

FOR its inaugural production to launch the impressive new theatre at the Belconnen Arts Centre, Belco Arts is presenting an ambitious physical theatre production entitled “L’Entreprise du Risque”.

According to his program notes, creative producer Sammy Moynihan has set out to explore themes of risk, danger and fragility, by creating a circus extravaganza which harnesses the varying circus skills of four trained circus performers, Jake Silvestro, Bernard Bru, Imogen Drury and Clare Pengryffyn.

That experience begins promisingly, with the audience, carefully observing COVID-19 distancing restrictions, being ushered into the darkened theatre, and seated around the performing area, where artfully lit, stages, mats and mysterious hanging sculptural shapes set up an intriguing air of expectation.

Photo: Andrew Sikorski.

The performers entered costumed in white boiler suits and helmets reminiscent of space suits (or perhaps PPE). One (Jake Silvestro) gingerly removed his helmet, and, apparently satisfied that the air was safe, launched into an impressive acrobatic routine. Silvestro is a world-class acrobat whose speciality is the Cyr Wheel, which he featured twice during the show.

Besides designing some intriguing aerial apparatus for the show, French-born veteran aerialist, Bernard Bru also performed solo and together with Silvestro. His solo on a moon-shaped apparatus was genuinely risky, given his age, as was another on parallel ropes.

Imogen Drury and Clare Pengryffyn have both trained with Warehouse Circus, and “L’Entreprise du Risque” provides them with their first professional engagement as circus performers. Both perform competently on the specially designed apparatus, but have yet to master the presentation skills necessary to provide their performances with the “wow” factor.

Besides their routines, the four performers were required to accomplish costume changes, set the riggings and clear away apparatus between acts, depriving the show of pace and excitement.

Even had all been highly experienced, it was very ambitious to expect four performers to sustain an hour of demanding physical performance. Given that two of this cast were novices, it was no surprise that the strain was often evident.

Circus exists on thrills, risk and excitement. Unfortunately, despite the obvious time and effort that had gone into developing this show, and the best efforts of the talented cast, not enough of these elements are present in “L’Entreprise du Risque” to allow it to achieve its ambitions.

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