National Arts Festival: Urban Circus - Where big city dreams can come true

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The Construction Pole Act from Urban Circus. (Photo: Joanna Pawelczyk)
The Construction Pole Act from Urban Circus. (Photo: Joanna Pawelczyk)

EVENT: Urban Circus at The National Arts Festival 


In the city dreams can come true. In the city, you do what you have to but, you can also find friends who are true. The urban landscape has higher peaks. It is where people learn how to exceed their own limits. The saying goes, ‘It’s a jungle out there’, but in Daniel Buckland’s vision of the Urban Circus, it is a community of fellow dreamers who meet to work just as hard as they play. In the city as a circus, you see how dexterous people can be. They not only meet higher and higher demands whilst hanging upside down, but they also do spins on a trapeze with one hand holding up a book or lipstick or broom.

The Urban Circus tells stories of success through heart-stopping acrobatics. It also shares the backroom tales of helping each other keep up with the latest trends while walking a high-stakes tight-rope and trying to keep the balance. This circus plays with clever clowning and fills the imagination with whimsical visions of elevators packed with acrobats jumping and sliding into contorted positions. It is a wonderous toss of the mind into what the city can be if everyone was a light-hearted trickster who knows the importance of neighborliness.

Live performance elevates our hopes and dreams and makes our bodies tingle with the feeling that anything is possible, indeed. When a group of nine highly trained performers dance together in bouncing unison and lift their smiling arms to invite everyone to bob in their seats as well, a feeling of euphoria can wash over a room full of over 900 people. On opening night in the Guy Butler Auditorium, it was certainly difficult not to tap a foot or clap both hands.

The Cirk, a Johannesburg-based circus troupe, in collaboration with Makhanda-bred Daniel Buckland have raised the bar on family entertainment as the National Arts Festival warmly welcomes the joy of live performance after two years of uncertainty. Children, parents, older and younger people in singles and pairs filled the auditorium with as much energy as they received from the stage. Every spectacular scene met authentic applause, and the most meaningful, slick acrobatics heard the sheer awe of their audience throughout the scene and not just at the curated ending.

The show has manufactured a meeting between the art of theatrical clowning along with the pageantry of people performing gravity-defying feats. This circus brings the extravaganza home in a way that makes it seem within anyone’s grasp to fly if you put in the work.

There are many heart-warming vignettes, such as a busy elevator scene in which the performers are squashed in together, shoulder to shoulder, upside down, held by others, with hearty laughter when the comedy clocks in. The rewards of scenes like this are on multiple levels; the comedy of the absurd story told through the wacky dance of squeezing into a small metal box, and thee the dream-like interlude of a performer lifting that box, but we’ll let you see the rest for yourself.

The Urban Circus leaves audiences a high point. It truly is the dream of a landscape where anything feels possible. Fitting for the return to live NAF.

This article was first published on The Critter.

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