‘Casting Off’, by A Good Catch Circus

This response was produced as part of the #CircusVoices scheme for developing critical practice around circus arts.

Review from: Assembly George Square Gardens, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 10th August 2018

‘Casting Off’ by A Good Catch Circus IMAGE: Via Carnival Cinema

This new Australian company, A Good Catch, comprises of 3 multi-generational women stretching three decades. They present new circus work, Casting Off, at the Palais du Variete, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018. Do not have doubt or be deceived by their recent collective arrival to the circus stage – A Good Catch pool together a range of experienced and skilled performers to form a dynamic collective: Spenser Inwood as the reasonable Knit, Sharon Gruenert as the emotional Pearl, and Aussie legend Debra Batton as flippant Slip. These ‘Sheilas’ embraced the diversity of their experience and ages to deliver an inspiring feminist performance, typically under-represented on the global circus stages. In an engaging performance with a message relevant for everyone, three unique singularities speak to a collective female experience. We witness the full gamut of their own experiences through a rich and colourful telling, in a continuous and interweaving narrative between these exceptional three women. Continuously multi-tasking, they embodied exemplary strength and witty intelligence to flip the script on traditional notions of the aging female body, subverting normalised notions of femininity while humbly embracing their humanity.

Debra Batton, Sharon Gruenert and Spenser Inwood from A Good Catch Circus IMAGE: via Carnival Cinema

Throughout the performance, these unapologetic Sheilas skillfully weave the theatrical element of spoken text into their show, punctuating the acrobatic movement and vice versa, the elements working in mutual dependence. The group chair stacking act especially exemplifies this skillful punctuation, while also offering a new intent for hand balancing – HAPPINESS. The company’s clever counterpoint between the levity of the acrobatics and the profound spoken narrative brings an embodied intelligence to the stage.

Casting Off does not lean on high production value to captivate its audience. Unassuming in their homemade – yet highly functional and colourful – knitted cossies, their minimalist choice offers greater access to the realities and histories of their acrobatic bodies. Relying on their acrobatic and theatrical skills, never once is a musical soundtrack played over the sound system. Their three-part monologue serves as the soundscape for this show, until the youngest shares a soothing scat while performing the catcher role for Pearl in the final cradle act. Presented on a raised Spiegeltent stage with a catwalk to the central round, these women defy the boundaries of that stage and engage with the full scope of the tent, executing their virtuosic abilities in a range of circus discipline – group hand-to-hand, tricycle, cradle, ground acrobatics, and chair stacking. Never hiding a moment – and embracing every hiccup that inevitably presents itself in live performance – it is truly a no-nonsense show.

A Good Catch Circus

These three inspirational women present a show that brings me to tears (which is rare) as well as lifts my spirits. Offering a satirical and absurd treatment of societal taboos, Casting Off touches on a range of identity politics, including gender inequality, cross generational gaps, challenging and disparate dialogues within the female gender, and the source of shame. This unapologetic – yet humble – feminist performance represents a powerful, endearing, and joyful lived experience that simply won my heart and that of fellow audience members I spoke to.

If you’re interested in seeing a performance of incredible women, dressed in homemade knitted costumes, performing socio-politically conscious work that’s accessible to all ages, then this show is for you.

If you’re not interested in seeing a performance like this, this show is also for you.

Until next time….


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