The Return and Meeting: Spotlight Australia

The Return (Il Ritorno)

Creators Yaron Lifschitz and Quincy Grant and The Circa Ensemble

Composition/Musical Direction/Arrangements  Quincy Grant

Acrobats  Circa Ensemble

Spotlight Austalia Series

Canadian Stage 

Bluma Appel Theatre

May 3-7 2017 


Reviewed by Ted Fox

The Creator of The Return is Yaron Lifschitz. He was inspired by Monteverdi's baroque opera Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria, about the sufferings of Ulysses and his return to his homeland after surviving the Trojan Wars, and also by Primo Levi's account of the horrors of Auschwitz.

Circa is a circus company that tackles a serious political issue with this show. It goes against the traditional view of a circus as focusing on exciting daredevil aerobic entertainment featuring exciting trapeze work, impressive animal acts and scarily funny clowns.

The action takes place in front of a metal wall that spreads across the stage. It is a barrier representing a refugee camp inhabited by those who had to flee their wartorn homelands. The metal wall also suggests the hellish cargo holds that got them there.

The acrobats play very realistic characters. There is a Waiting for Godot feel to the piece, in the sense of awaiting the unspeakable. Their eyes are wide open in fright and horror.

It's as if they are caught in post-traumatic memories playing over and over in their bodies. They scurry about like ants with their homes destroyed. Trying to get out. Climbing the slippery walls. Getting to the top but sliding down. To face us looking at them. Caught in the blazing lights of a car, like kangaroos about to be slaughtered

The physicality is extreme. The spontaneous bursts of energy. The flailing of hands and arms. Death-defying gravity movements that punctuate the piece like bullets. Bodies pile up like twisted and contorted corpses,

The males have a dominant feel with their weight and muscular builds. The women seem much less so. Yet one holds two men on her shoulders. Another stands solidly atop a pyramid of male bodies. One walks on the men's heads.

Body language is also evoked in dance vocabularies. When women are hurled across the stage and caught, they flip upwards and over the catcher, slide upside down, flip erect and run. All at very high speed. Its like watching Louise Lecavalier when she was in La La Human Steps.

Really effective is one woman who, hanging in a stirrup above the stage, does grotesque contortions ending up hanging like meat.

The music composed and arranged by Quincy Grant is performed live by four musicians and opera singers Kate Howden and Benedict Nelson. It is a blend of Grant's own compositions, Monteverdi and folk song.They are placed on the right side of the stage. We are always aware of their presence. It gives the impression of two different classes side by side. The well-heeled and those who are not. Occasionally the musicians watch what is happening but stay distanced from them and their situation.

Featuring compelling circus and dance body language, The Return effectively addresses the traumatic suffering of those displaced from their homelands. And illustrates how circus can be thought-provoking while entertaining. 



Choreography, Direction, Performance: Antony Hamilton

Instrument Design & Construction, Composition, Performance: Alisdair Macindoe

Spotlight Australia

Canadian Stage

Bluma Appel Theatre

April 26-30 2017 


Reviewed by Ted Fox

Choreographer/Dancer Antony Hamilton performs Meeting with non-dancer Alisdair Macindoe.

They explore the robotization of their body language via internalizing the percussion instrumentation of 62 robotic pencils attached to levers on wooden blocks programmed to act as hammers tapping the floor. Macindoe designed and constructed these bots and programmed their compositions.

They commence by standing and making various gestures with their hands and arms that progressively become faster and more complicated. They isolate the muscles in their arms, neck and torso and tighten and release them.. These movements occur during the gaps of each beat. Their faces are devoid of expression. There is though a feeling of intense concentration emanating from them.

Hamilton states in the creators' notes that they employ "a complex counting sequence as a score for phrasing." They reach a point where they count numbers aloud, resembling somewhat sound poets in performance.

The mood changes when each of them spreads their legs and lift them one at a time in sync over the bots. Released from the circle they take on b-boy movements in slow motion that are human and fluid.

They then slowly replace the instruments into little groups. Placing a metal disk under them including an old pipe for one of them. The groups reflect a human orchestra where the musicians are seated according to their instruments.

After they leave we are treated to a five minute recital. The reconfiguration gives a totally different textured soundscape.

A thought-provoking, intensely performed illustration of human bodies reprogrammed by technology. Even an orchestra is replaced by robots.