Circus has moved forward; it is no longer just simple juggling, acrobatic or other skills in a big top. The power and intensity of circus skills are now used to illustrate all manner of contemporary stories and issues. The Wonderland Festival has brought together some wonderful examples of such ‘serious circus’, including Jess Love’s Notorious Strumpet and Dangerous Girl (using circus to chart her journey through addiction and heritage) and Alex Mizzen’s Invisible Things (peeling back the layers and overcoming her demons).

The all-female New Zealand based Dust Palace combine circus, dance and poetry to highlight feminine issues and gender stereotypes—all performed with a great sense of humour and a rocking soundtrack.

The show opens with a seemingly pregnant woman, dressed as a man, welcoming us to the performance. Or that’s what he might be doing, as he seems unable to utter a word. And is he/she really pregnant or is it part of the show? (actually yes, it is the pregnant Director/Performer Jess Holey Bates).

  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

This slight sense of bewilderment and confusion is sustained as you watch a series of amazing circus acts, toned bodies, sensual dance and comedy pastiche. Do I take this at face value or is there a deeper meaning?

I’m sure everyone will have had their own highlights from the performance. For me, the take-off of stereotypical male macho behaviour in the gym, an ‘orchestrated orgasm,’ and an aerial pole dance were all memorable. And if it’s just one, well then it would have to be the aerial pole dance—which elevates the form from a sleazy nightclub performance to a powerful demonstration of strength, artistry and skill.

  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography

Whether you come for the feminist politics, or just to see the talented performers and some stunning aerobatics, you will enjoy this well-paced show. The hour goes too quickly. As my companion for the evening said, “I’m not sure what that was about but I loved it.”

Verdict: Feminist politics meets serious circus. Worth seeing for the aerial pole dance alone.

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre (18+. Coarse language, strobe lighting, nudity, and adult themes). There are only three performances of The WonderWombs in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (7:30pm, 29 November until 1st December 2018). Tickets may still be available: $45 ($39 concession, and pp for a group of 6+) plus $5.95 transaction fee. Why not keep an eye on the website, and see what else might tempt you at the 2018 Wonderland Festival.

Geoff Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 29th November 2018 performance (7:30pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

 

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