There’s been a lot of talk recently about the lack of female-led super hero movies. Joss Whedon’s attempts to bring Wonder Woman to the big screen came to nothing and while there’s apparently a female-led Marvel project on the cards for 2017, there’s a general sense of timidity about the whole thing
Well, fuck that, because Rowan Heydon White, of Australian contemporary circus company Circa, is Wonder Woman. She’s amazing. She can throws her male co-performers through the air, she can balance them on her back, she can catch their bodies in mid-flight with the same ease as one might catch a ball; at one point she takes a Rubik’s Cube and proceeds to solve it, while her company members clamber all over her, distracting her, standing on her, clinging to her. Like I said, she’s super.
There’s an edge of the uncanny to this show. An uneasy, dreamlike quality where giant rabbits frolic in the mist, bodies bend in unwise ways and people cluck and caw like birds. Theirs is a subverted world and while the performance celebrates the astonishing things of which the human body is capable – its strengths, its flexibility – it does so in a playful, intelligent way. “There’s a line between human and animal, between madness and sanity, between logic and dream,” the opening voice over intones. There’s no narrative as such, but this idea of the animalistic runs through the whole piece. We are all of us flesh.
The production has been around for a while – I first saw it in a Spiegeltent in Norwich last year – but it feels more developed now, the weirder elements, the air of oddness, better integrated into the piece. Several sequences have been dropped – the burlesque tennis racket contortion dance is no more and its loss is not felt. There are very few props, a trapeze, a couple of climbing bars, a stretch of black silk. Costumes are similarly minimal, apart from bear suits and bunny heads which lend the piece a darkly cartoonish aesthetic. Each performer gets a solo spot in which to showcase their particular skill set, self-destructive tumbling, some dizzying silk-work, a beautiful, nimble fingered paper waltz to the music of Bonnie Tyler. The group sequences, in which they hurl chairs through the air and fling themselves about the space, are if anything even more dazzling.
Along with the incongruous Frank Sinatra soundtrack, the applause of the audience is continually punctuated by little gasps and winces and squeals of excitement. There’s laughter too, because it’s hard not to laugh when a man in an oversized bear suit shimmies up a pole while Bach’s Goldberg Variations plays in the background. It’s a brilliant, beautiful, ridiculous moment of which this show contains many.