‘Wolfgang’, by Circa

Review from: Underbelly Circus Hub, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 22nd August 2018

Paul O’Keeffe in ‘Wolfgang’ IMAGE: Dylan Evans

Circa‘s children’s show Wolfgang is performed by Kathryn and Paul O’Keeffe in the Circus Hub spiegeltent. The work is loosely based on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, bringing together the music of Mozart and the persona of Wolfgang, with a healthy dressing of ridiculousness that keeps the whole family happy. The show, directed by Yaron Lifschitz with Benjamin Knapton, is performed entirely to Mozart’s compositions, importantly introducing children to classical music with all the spectacle and magic that live circus performance allows for. In the absence of a full blown orchestra to play Mozart’s oeuvre, an accordion player adds additional live melodies over the top of the recorded soundtrack. This allows the performers to occasionally respond playfully with the music. Kathryn O’Keeffe bounds in as the birthday girl and as her birthday wishes come true, Mozart – known as Wolfgang to his friends – tumbles in to visit, bringing mayhem with him.  The pair carry an hour-long show to a large of audience of families, their charisma and wonderfully expressive faces building a rapport with their little audience members. Kathryn is an elegant pillar of strength, both emotionally and physically throughout, and her role as a base steals the show, making her an inspirational female role model for her captive audience. Paul’s clowning and magically malleable face brings the silliness, with gurning galore and acts on a bicycle, balancing on chairs and twenty-odd conducting batons.

Kathryn and Paul O’Keeffe in ‘Wolfgang’ IMAGE: Dylan Evans

A handstand phrase around a chair sees Kathryn perform head, hand and shoulder stands with the chair frame and legs becoming new limbs. One-armed freezes, and one-handed handstands peacefully captivate before the raucous begins, folding from the waist in a pike position so both legs move together to a horizontal angle, then back for an upside-down side-split before carefully lowering the legs with sustained control to step off the chair.

Wolfgang zooms on a bicycle, cycling round and round in his underwear on the tiny circular thrust stage, just managing to miss audience’s noises. Kathryn manages to dress him whilst he is still riding round, balancing on one leg while she chases him with his clothes, which makes a nice play on the popular undressing routine so often seen in circus shows. Once dressed, Wolfgang rides the bike on one wheel, sitting high like a unicycle, then standing on the ground to whirl the bike around his head by the handle bars.

‘Wolfgang’, by Circa IMAGE: Dylan Evans

Problems with a music stand and composing baton bring laughs through object play, and a slow-motion fight scene is the only time I remember personally enjoying slo-mo. It utterly works through the charisma and clowning of the expressive pair. Acro-balance phrases follow a moment where a tiny young audience member is dressed in Wolfgang’s extra-large clothes and given command over the music. A constant and rich movement vocabulary throughout the whole show includes balancing on a tower of three angled chairs placed on Champagne bottles, and tableaux where the pair counterbalance each other’s weight. The Spiegeltent is packed with families and lone adults who seem to thoroughly enjoy the fun of a birthday party, whilst humming along to Mozart’s well-known musical compositions.


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