Circus is often associated with fun and a demonstration of feats of skill and strength. Circus protest may conjure up thoughts of ethical treatment of animals, or female equality (both of which have been linked to protests associated with established circuses in recent years). But, reflecting on the opening night of Kelsey Laura’s Proximity, it appears to me that Serious Circus (or Circusactivism) is making its way to Brisbane.  Anywhere Festival 2018 includes a number of shows using circus or physical theatre as a means to tell stories and open up debate about some serious issues. For example, Alex Mizzen shared shares some of the rage and frustration associated with finding her own creative voice in Invisible Things. Kelsey Laura’s Proximity, seeks to explore and examine issues of consent. Very serious circus, indeed.

 Pictured: Kelsey Laura, Proximity. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Kelsey Laura, Proximity. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

As a sensitive exploration of issues of consent, trust and safety, the audience are warned at the start about the subjects to be addressed (and the program provides details about a range of support and counselling services). And then we walk out, into the dark, and toward the staged area. Ahead of us is a single female, speeding up and slowing down, depending on our proximity to her. Waiting for us is a single, lit trapeze. And then we are looking into the clear gaze of Kelsey Laura, who is defensively clutching a handful of keys. Over the 25 minutes of the show, Kelsey demonstrates skills in trapeze and physical theatre, while gradually unpacking a box of eggshells. A literal demonstration of discussions which need to be held.

 Pictured: Kelsey Laura. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Kelsey Laura. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The excellent soundtrack (sound design, Shelby Neufeld) incorporates extracts from interviews with a range of young people, playing back discussions about potential rapists, the issues of blame and responsibility, and the need for consent to be an ongoing process of checking and re-checking between partners. As one commented, “communication about sex is not seen as sexy,” but they all gave frank and insightful responses to some very direct questions about the subject (interviewees: Maddy, Catherine, Alex, Ali, Paige, Shantona, Shelby, Jen, Bree, and Ruthie). It was great to see how, as the performance and discussions unfolded, the performer moved from uncertainty (and a self-conscious ‘covering up’) towards a stronger and more positive exposition of an empty box and a throwing of the keys to one side.

A successful solo show requires the support of a network of work ‘behind the scenes.’ It’s great to see that Kelsey has drawn on excellent rigging, crew, marketing, sound, marketing and tech support (and Director Lara Croyon). I really like the idea of circus being used to provoke serious debate, and even to making change. Perhaps in a future iteration the show might be included in a longer program of material or incorporate different acts to reach a wider audience (as seen in the marvellous 2017 Hiraeth, also at Flipside Circus, Alderley, in which Kelsey performed).

 Picture: Kelsey Laura. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Kelsey Laura. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Verdict: Serious issues raised for debate, in a new work which includes strong trapeze and physical theatre.    

Audience tip: Outside seating, so wrap up warm (or pick up one of the blankets on some of the seats). 15+ (adult themes). 25 minutes. 

Only four performances during Anywhere Festival 2018: Friday and Saturday nights (7pm), 18-26 May 2018. Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website. $15.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 18th May (7pm) performance.

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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