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Hummingbird House

Review: We Live Here (Brisbane Festival)


Review: We Live Here (Brisbane Festival)

In an era where so many people speak of having so little time, acronyms can be very popular. So if you want the quick version of this review (and, after all, there are only three more performances of this show in the 2019 Brisbane Festival program. We Live Here opened on Friday, and has two shows on Saturday and a final performance on Sunday)…

FoMO? IMHO DMTS  …that is…do you have a Fear of Missing Out? In My Honest Opinion …Don’t Miss This Show.

The 2019 Brisbane Festival is teeming with many fantastic options. It can be difficult to choose... which might mean that some patrons might first be tempted to skip over a show that is listed under ‘circus’ and ‘family.’ Which would be a pity. This is circus that made the opening night audience smile, brought tears to a few eyes, drew many gasps of admiration, and ended with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Age & time are important themes in this show. We Live Here was originally commissioned by Metro Arts, as a collaboration between Flipside Circus (known for providing circus opportunities for young people) and Hummingbird House (one of only three hospices for children in Australia—and the only facility providing respite and end of life care for Queensland children). So yes, this is a show that combines the work of young performers, with stories about the short lives of the guests in the care of Hummingbird House, and reminders of the time-pressures faced by the parents of some very sick children.

Watching, enthralled, it was occasionally difficult to remember that the talented performers and co-creators (Indra Garvey, Mia Hughes, Amy Stuart, Skip Walker-Milne and Luke Whitefield) are all under 30. And that three of the cast are under 18. Together, the performers demonstrate a great maturity: in the standard of their theatrical and circus performance, and in their reflections on (and response to) the stories that are at the heart of the show.

Pictured:  We Live Here,  Brisbane Festival 2019   (Indra Garvey, Mia Hughes, Amy Stuart, Skip Walker-Milne and Luke Whitefield). Pictures credit:  Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: We Live Here, Brisbane Festival 2019 (Indra Garvey, Mia Hughes, Amy Stuart, Skip Walker-Milne and Luke Whitefield). Pictures credit: Creative Futures Photography.


We Live Here is an inspired theatrical event: five Flipside Circus performers and creators, a time-focused video projection and a moving soundtrack that includes the words of Hummingbird House staff and parents (Mik La Vage, Audio and Projection Designer), and the leadership and creativity of Natano Fa’anana and Bridget Boyle (Co-Directors). I had the opportunity to see this show in November 2018, and was greatly impressed then (click here for more). The 2019 Brisbane Festival production was even funnier, but also more touching; it also provided an opportunity for the young co-creators to demonstrate their growing circus and acrobatic skills. The 2019 Festival show demonstrates the versatility of the piece and performers. We Live Here works in many different performance spaces, so I do hope that it will tour, and ensure wider audiences can experience the work.

The circus skills are outstanding: amazing loose rope work, impressive strength and lifts, flexible and flowing acrobatics, and some fabulous hula hooping. But this is also an impressive theatrical work; an experience that will stay with you long after the show. It’s funny (watch out for the family pool scene), and it’s thought-provoking (you’ll be mesmerised by the circus work illustrating the minute-by-minute daily pressures faced by the ‘mother’). Your kids will love the acrobatics and fun, and you’ll reflect on an amazing performance that makes you think about what really matters in life (and have a renewed admiration for the work of the parents who devote their lives to their terminally-ill kids, and the vital work of hospice care staff).  Don’t miss out. Go.

Verdict: Go. Brisbane Festival, Hummingbird House and Flipside Circus. Three great reasons to be very proud of Queensland.

Audience tip: Book a ticket while you can—only 5 performances during the 2019 Brisbane Festival (5 September preview, plus 6-8 September, 7:00pm each evening plus 4:30pm on 7 September and 2:00pm on Sunday 8 September). 55 minutes. 5+. Tickets are $28 (plus booking fee).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the opening night performance (7pm, Friday 6 September 2019). Note: A shorter version of this review appears on the 2019 Brisbane Festival IMHO (In My Honest Opinion) website.  

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography


Review: We Live Here


Review: We Live Here

Deathfest, first seen in 2016, returns in a 2.0 version—Deathfest 2.0: A Duel with Death. Described as Australia’s first arts and culture festival on death, dying and the best way to live, the Metro Arts team has curated an important artistic response and provocation, designed to encourage discussions and reflection on dying and living. Central to the project, is We Live Here: commissioned by Metro Arts and developed by Flipside Circus (from an original concept by Jo Thomas), in conjunction with Hummingbird House, Robert Kronk (Dramaturg & Creator), with Natano Fa’anana and Bridget Boyle (Directors & Creators). It is an inspired commission.

Circus and death may appear an unlikely pairing: circus has connotations of life and laughter, in contrast with the sorrow and pain associated with death. But, as the Flipside Circus team so ably demonstrate, there are many parallels. Both depend on trust and determination, and require care and trained support. And just as Hummingbird House is clearly so very much more than ‘just’ a hospice, We Live Here is more than a catalogue of impressive circus skills.

We Live Here is a theatrical event: combining the work of five talented circus performers and creators (Indra Garvey, Mia Hughes, Amy Stuart, Skip Walker-Milne and Luke Whitefield), with great time-focused video projection and a moving soundtrack that included the words of parents, staff and supporters associated with Hummingbird House (Mik La Vage, Audio and Projection Designer). I have previously seen the talented Hughes, Whitefield, and Garvey as three members of the cast of eleven performers in Fusion (Flipside Circus’ 2017 Anywhere Festival production). And, again, they didn’t disappoint. From the compelling beginning of the show—where one of the younger performers portrayed the experience of being a child requiring complete care and support to move, manipulated and moving with the support of the rest of the cast—we were hooked.

Time, as the production reminds us, marches on. For the parents of life-limited children, time moves exceptionally fast—memorably demonstrated by Stuart on the clock-face treadmill of parental tasks accounting for every minute in a morning, concluding with “and it all begins again.” And this was not the only moment where Stuart, as a ‘mother figure,’ held the family together — often quite literally a circus tower of strength.

Pictured : Amy Stuart (strength), Skip Walker-Milne (handstand), with Mia Hughes, Luke Whitefield, and Indra Garvey. Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Amy Stuart (strength), Skip Walker-Milne (handstand), with Mia Hughes, Luke Whitefield, and Indra Garvey. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.


Stuart gave a compelling central performance, not only with some of the best hoop manipulation I’ve seen in a long while, but also in producing some wonderful strength work. Indeed, Stuart often seemed to have the rest of the cast on her shoulders, including a great ‘duet’ with Walker-Milne, who walked the Loose Rope. But every member of the cast worked well in the ensemble, and also had the opportunity to shine and demonstrate their individual skills, with every move connecting with the audio and illustrating aspects of the Hummingbird House story. Walker-Milne’s work on the Chinese Pole was a fluid, and fabulous highlight. But we were equally impressed with the balance work on the seats of the chairs, the humorous interchanges between the younger members of the cast, the climb up the stairs on the backs of fellow cast members, and the range of circus abilities on show.

Life-limiting conditions, respite and hospice care are connected with images of sorrow and death. But, as the audio and performance reminded us, families also seek ‘ordinary’ memories of love and laughter; of parties, hair-braiding and of playing together. One of the funniest parts of We Live Here had to be the creation of the ‘family’ playing in the pool, complete with goggles and a rendition of their own version of synchronised swimming Swan Lake cygnets (although we also enjoyed the performance of the romantic rooftop ‘date,’ created by the Hummingbird House team to provide respite for one couple).

Hummingbird House is one of only 3 hospices for children in Australia, and the only facility providing respite and end of life care for Queensland children. The organisation seeks toprovide best practice short break stays and care at the end of life for children with a life-limiting condition and their families, and to help families discover moments and create memories to last a lifetime.’ In We Live Here, the Hummingbird-Flipside collaborators have created wonderful memories that will live for many lifetimes, and deserves to attract more supporters for both organisations. The Metro Arts commission is an inspired jewel in the Deathfest 2.0 program, bringing stories and experiences of the families of younger people with life-limiting conditions to life through the work of young circus performers. We Live Here is a fruitful and inspiring collaboration—illustrating the vital work of Hummingbird House and the skills of the Flipside Circus creatives, creators and performers.

Verdict: Exceptional. I really hope this show gets more than the scheduled three performances. See it if you can. Look out for future productions by Flipside Circus, and why not find out more about the much-needed work by the Hummingbird House team.

Audience tip: 55 minutes There are only three performances of We Live Here in the 2018 Deathfest program (2nd November, 7pm, with two shows on 3rd November at 3pm and 7pm) Tickets $10. Why not keep an eye on the website and book ahead for future events in the Metro Arts program.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 2nd November 2018 performance (7:00pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.