‘Collision’ was sensational.
Mind-boggling, body-bending and spellbinding, ‘Collision’ was an hour of pure joy.
Created by Casus Circus in collaboration with Mad Dance House and presented by Metro Arts at the trendy New Benner Theatre in West End, the show was billed as a “cross-pollination of contemporary circus and street dance” and made for a beautiful collaboration. It had the audience laughing out loud, cheering encouragement and gasping in awe of the sheer strength, concentration and flair of the six performers. The production won the 2021 Weekly Award at Adelaide Fringe for best circus/physical theatre and it’s easy to see why.
Hand-balancer and contortionist Riley Colquist, acrobat and hula artist Amy Stuart and acrobat/visual artist Ela Bartilomo made up the circus half of the group and were complemented by street dancers Ben Garcia (aka BennyBucho) and Wanida Serce, and popping/animated movement specialist Sam Evans.
Each performer had an opportunity to display their unique talents, with costume changes from street clothes into outfits to highlight their individual styles. Particularly enjoyable costuming was the hip-hop-through-the-decades sequence led by Garcia, complete with tracksuit and prop boom box. The impressive breakdancing tricks aside, Garcia’s comedic delivery and ability to amp up the audience earned delighted laughter and cheers throughout – and the soundtrack did not disappoint, with excellent choices by the music design team (Natano Fa’anana, Jesse Scott, Ché Pritchard and Andrew Haden).
Serce was a crowd favourite, urged on by audience members chanting her name, with beautifully executed floorwork in her initially slow-tempo solo that built up to waacking and street dance styles synonymous with Mad Dance House. She also shone in a trio with Stuart and Bartilomo, the three of them moving as if conjoined in shapes complimented by evocative lighting. The number manifested as a sort of fluid embrace, with a sense of loving trust emanating from the performers.
Kudos goes to choreographer/creative consultant Pritchard and indeed the entire directorate (Fa’anana and codirectors Scott and Lachlan McAulay) for such entertaining, inventive choreography and delivery. Even each of the transitions built on the last to continue the excellent pacing, with never a dull moment on stage.
The group numbers featured impressive lifts and shapes made both individually and as a whole; with a sense, the performers were inhaling and exhaling as one while the audience held our collective breath. Without exaggeration, there was often someone in the crowd with a hand covering their mouth or gripping their glass as we witnessed the phenomenal physical feats.
Lighting design by Andrew “Panda” Haden, with support from associate lighting designer Mathew James, was well utilised to transform the stage to suit each piece, with sound effects helping the audience travel from a bus stop to a rainy night and through an impressive rewind sequence following an intensely physical popping routine by Evans. The intricacy with which he delivered the “pops” on his torso is surely a rare talent; his facial expressions made it all the more entertaining.
Colquist’s crazy backbends and ability to balance atop tiny wooden blocks elevated by pegs, as well as in impossibly high platform heels for his solo number, were augmented by his hilariously casual expressions as if to tell the audience, “I could do this in my sleep”.
Stuart’s hula hoop number was a standout; visually stunning and so very well-executed, displaying amazing concentration and balance. Stuart frequently played the part of the solid base for beautifully choreographed shapes and acrobatic tricks with her fellow performers. The three-girl tower built upon her shoulders had the audience on the edge of our seats.
Bartilomo brimmed with charisma; her facial expression was one of utter joyfulness as she danced, flipped and balanced through the show with amazing flexibility. Even the truly horrible moment on opening night when she missed catching a rope hanging from the ceiling mid-backflip, plummeting to the stage floor and landing with a heart-wrenching thud, was not enough to stop her from returning for the finale with the same uplifting smile. It was a reminder, Metro Arts CEO Jo Thomas told the audience after the show, of the risks performers take with their bodies in the name of creating art.
With a sold-out run, here’s hoping ‘Collision’ will return to Brisbane in all its imaginative glory, to yet again spark the lightning bolt of joyful energy that flashed through Metro Arts on opening night.