review: Summer Play Factor – SPF

By Catherine Lawrence
Creative Futures Photography

Start to think about Australian summer traditions and the list can get pretty long: time with family and friends, beach cricket, beach balls, queuing for ice-creams, surf lifesavers, surfers, sunset mocktails, rushing into the sea, paddling in the shallows… The creative team behind Flipside Circus’ latest show have clearly worked hard to research Summer Play Factor (SPF). This enjoyable show is aptly named; the SPF title is a great play on words, and the team have created a playful evocation of summer at the beach.

Flipside Circus may be the younger kids on the block (the performers all appeared to be under-18, with some under 10), but this is a highly professional show. The circus skills are impressive: wonderful tumbling, with great strength and balance (including some very impressive standing on shoulders).  The choreography is well-crafted (I particularly loved the Mr Blue Sky finale). The story-telling is extremely effective; from the start we are hooked, as the performer walks onto the ‘beach,’ selecting the perfect spot to sunbathe and then waiting for the right moment to dive into the waves. The soundtrack really enhances the piece (and is almost worth the price of admission alone). The costumes are suitably bright and evoke the seaside vibe (even including lifesaver hats!). And the smiles are infectious.

If I had to pick just three highlights, I’d probably pick the work using the surfboard (loved it all—from the ‘surfing’ through to the acro-balance and throws), the links and changes of mood worked really well (look out for the ocean liner ‘cheers’ and beach-ball throwing—and the finale), and some of the strength and balance work was just breath-taking.

SPF had its world premiere at the January 2021 Gold Coast Home of The Arts (HOTA) Scoop festival. A perfect fit, as Scoop was promoted as ‘…everything you love about summer in one sweet weekend,’ with ‘Australia’s best Circus companies premiering new works specially created for outdoor and pop-up spaces.’ SPF proved to be a delightful, entertaining, and highly-flexible show—offering two different formats (a single 30-minute performance, or two 20-minute sets), and also capable of moving venue at the drop of a hat. On the opening day the Gold Coast sunshine proved a little strong for audiences and artists alike, so the remaining sets moved to a shady spot. The performers took the change in their stride, and managed all of the lifts and throws while avoiding the overhanging trees.

Scoop only ran for three days in January 2021. But SPF is a show that would work well in any festival program, so I hope to have the opportunity to see the performance again soon.

Verdict: Playful and professional summer circus fun. Great for all the family.

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