Review from: Underbelly Circus Hub (Beauty), Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 16th August 2019
Yuck Circus is a brand new show, and director Georgia Deguara’s first full-length work. But already this year it has had great success in both its home country Australia (winning multiple awards, including the Best Emerging Artist Award and the Tour-Ready Award at Adelaide Fringe 2019) and here in the UK (Performing in the big top in the Theatre and Circus field at Glastonbury Festival and now in The Circus Hub on the Meadows at Edinburgh Fringe 2019, where it was shortlisted for the Total Theatre and Theatre Deli Award for Best Emerging Company/Artist). I went to see it for myself and spoke to Georgia about creating the show.
‘Yuck is a rebellion’ says Degaura. ‘It’s all body shapes, it’s females lifting females and girls being gross.’ This show was born out of frustration with the status quo and does a great job of portraying an honest reflection of common place misogyny, whilst also highlighting problems within circus. Although it does touch on these more serious subjects, it is mostly incredibly fun and silly. The energy is high, with catchy well known songs and short skits. They use comedic costume changes and unusual props to highlight normalised assumptions and behaviours. Although I would love to see them explore the topics they touch on in more depth, the power of starting a conversation cannot be underestimated.
Georgia tells me about a young boy in the audience who asked them afterwards why they didn’t have any boys in the show. She suggested that they look at all the posters around them and count how many ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ they saw, and the message sank in pretty quickly. She says that they are ‘not shovelling ideas down people’s throats, it’s just a commentary’ that hopefully ‘results in a conversation’. It is interesting that watching these young women behave in ways that exemplify elements of toxic masculinity is seen as so shocking when these traits are so widely accepted in men. They touch on period shaming, sexual harassment and the more modern issue of online harassment. Some of these contemporary references are lost on the older members of the audience, leaving someone close to me looking puzzled as a giant aubergine emoji arrives on stage, but hopefully this will only encourage more discussion.
This show also parodies the common conventions of circus performance and that is evident in the tongue in cheek (or often stuck out in our faces) delivery. The aerial piece in particular rings true for me as the company exaggerate all of the usual tropes you would expect to see in a routine. It shouldn’t be a novelty but it is still unusual to see an all female circus company and this allows for the acrobatics to be less predictable, with each member of the company able to swap in and out of basing and flying. Although we often like to think of Circus as representative of the outskirts of society, as the art form moves into the mainstream it can easily fall into the trap of perpetuating harmful ideas. This means that seeing the variety of body shapes and sizes in Yuck confidently sporting the same black bras and big pants is a powerful statement. They play with audience expectations of a circus show, giving us a ‘section for the purists’ which involves Karla Scott hand balancing on Georgia’s bare bottom.
The company work well as an ensemble and are clearly passionate about the project, meeting us outside to chat, sell merchandise that they have screen printed themselves, and collect donations of sanitary products for The Homeless Period Edinburgh. Georgia says that the show is ‘changing even in our own cast how we exist in the world’. It is full of great ideas, well integrated circus skills and unapologetic presence. I am looking forward to seeing where it goes next, and hopefully, as Georgia says, ‘One day we’ll get to the bit where girls doing tricks isn’t the trick, it’s just tricks.’