By: Nadia Jade
Nothing ever happens in Brisbane
Circus tells the best stories.
Music makes you feel, theatre speaks to you, dance shows you, but circus has a way of wrapping you up in its arms that is quite unlike any other medium. Circus does what others only allude to.
We Live Here is a heartfelt exploration of the experiences of families and staff who are part of the community of Hummingbird House. This is Queensland’s only hospice for children, ostensibly a sad place, buts as we are resolutely shown, a joyful and resilient place as well. Five young acrobats, including three emerging artists from the Flipside Circus youth training school, work in beautiful tandem to present a series of personal stories from behind the scenes at Hummingbird House. Recordings tell us the reality of life for those families who bear great burden, the challenges of relationships and families under intense pressure, or having to face the realities of illnesses that are life sentences, some brutally cut short.
Striking scenes. A line is laid across acrobat Amy Stuart’s shoulder, that turns into a slackline (a loose tightrope). There is such simplicity to the moment. Here is the weight we bear. I think this is what I like best about circus, that the weight, the challenge of running a cutting line over her shoulder and taking up the slack whilst the full bodyweight of another person presses it into her flesh; it creates such an easily understood physical metaphor, so that for just a moment we are reminded of the challenges that others experience. I think of the families that have to go on bearing weight, time after time, year after year, but that’s okay too, cause we love to do it, and bearing such burdens is an expression of love in itself.
Moments of love pepper the performance. The littlest two cast members act out a gorgeous scene, where the narrator tells us of a couple who had not had a single night to themselves since the birth of their child. A dinner is set on a rooftop and the two dine. A deeply touching story is amusingly presented, giggling at romance but also the bittersweet success of fleeting moments grasped with both hands. And all the more treasured for their rareness.
There is a scene of tumbling which demonstrates the clawing grasping demands of a life where you never get to knock off, where needs are subsumed before the needs of others, the demands of care. The young acrobats have not got the disciplined polish of years on the stage, but they do have a fresh authenticity that is sometimes lost in others with greater experience. And of course, there is a bounciness and sense of play that is irrepressible. These young performers are just finding their feet on the stage, and will no doubt be making powerful works for many years to come.
A strong finish with a beautiful pole routine performed by Skip Walker-Milne. It is an apparatus that is often performed flashily, or with non-sensual sexuality. Here the performer is strong and fluid and graceful and dynamic, and it is a heart-in-your-mouth moment that wraps up a beautiful show.
It’s so good to see these stories on stage, in a world where every other show is about the artists own challenges, self-indulgent narratives of privileged lives. This show advocates for those that have no time to sing their own praises, and is all the more gorgeous for it.