Current Issue #488

Fringe Review: Chasing Smoke

Fringe Review: Chasing Smoke

An all-Indigenous cast of circus performers tackles the history and culture of Australia’s First Peoples through a cacophony of storytelling, circus and comedy.

The music is solemn when the crowd files in, smoke billowing about the tent as the five performers sit still in anticipation. It’s arresting. But what follows is a surprising combination of circus, comedy and storytelling that will have you chuckling at one point and weeping the next.

The young cast (all of Brisbane’s Casus Circus) are all proud First Nations people, each as passionate about their history and connection to country as they are talented. The performance is slick, clever, funny, heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. The show, directed by Natano Fa’anana, uses circus, dance and comedy to explore the history and culture of Indigenous Australians, and the challenges still faced today.

The performances are near-flawless, all played out in a small space with the action centimetres from the audience’s faces. Lara Croydon, Ally Humphries, Harley Mann, Dylan Singh, Pearl Tia Thompson and Jack Sheppard perform a selection of solo and collaborative circus and dance pieces, spurring plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the audience as they jump, twirl and swing from ropes in the small space. There are diablos, too.

Dotted throughout the show, each performer shares their own personal story through a voice recording, recounting their background, family and connection to country. During the recording, each of the talented cast delivers a moving performance to match. It’s hard to keep a dry eye in some moments – their performances not only impressive but also effortlessly powerful.

In between, the cast perform captivating team dance and circus performances, some reminiscent of dreamtime stories, others of small snippets of history. There’s so much happening, it’s sometimes hard to focus on one single element, but the flow of the cast is beautiful to watch.

Switching our attention to different cultural issues are occasional spoken performances by Croydon, as she portrays an overly energetic Australian television host. She introduces the show and stars in a clever cooking segment, which is as witty and hilarious as it is uncomfortable as the act of baking a cake is used to symbolise and discuss White Australia policies. Effective and emotional, it’s a great contrast to the performances in between.

As the show draws to a close, we are left acutely aware of the overwhelming passion of this young cast, both for their craft, but also for their heritage and the message the show sends. Finishing with an all-in hilarious circus/dance-off, we find ourselves cheering them all on before a clever spoken summary and bow ends the show on a moving note.

Chasing Smoke was performed at Ukiyo, Gluttony on Wednesday, February 20.

Chasing Smoke
February 26-28, March 1-3
Ukiyo, Gluttony

Header image:
Rob Blackburn

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