The circus is in town! Red Betty Theatre and the Hamilton Fringe are presenting The Circus, written by Radha S Menon and directed by Tony Sciara at the Lyric Theatre. An unlikely collection of characters and images come together in this production to create a deeply moving experience. A Tiger Cat football game, a die–hard fan, a lesbian couple, a family reunion, a former circus worker, a clash of cultures and an aerial artist crowd under one abstract umbrella in this dubious but successful and magical tale. Menon maneuvers the very realistic setting of a football game and weaves in and out with memory recall of lost life and love. Menon is an important writer to see. Her style defies reason. She writes like a seamstress bringing together different shapes, materials and textures that are seemingly incongruous, but with one small thread, joins them in a stunning collage. This requires great vision and delicate skill.
This production does have some difficulties, but they are all in the presentation not the product. This circus is currently at a workshop level which means that some things are fantastic and others will potentially be transformed in future presentations. Every playwright has to go through this stage as they work toward their final product. As an audience member, there are some unique things to be seen in this process: innovation, inspiration, new beginnings, and risk. Productions like this take chances and that can be very exciting. Performance highlights include: Emi DiPietro as Cheech; Nicole Ciolek and Maya Huliyappa–Menon as clowns; Pamela Gardener and Bronwyn Gent as Cebelrai; and Aparajit Bhattacharjee as Sammy. DiPietro brings home the reality of the football fan in every way. In addition, he’s a fabulous clown. His movements and facial expressions create a silent a story that always keeps the audience in the frame. In a collective moment, the clowns create one of the most haunting scenes in the show with their whispering procession around Sabrina Armani as Kate. They capture the moment of gaining consciousness precisely as the mind re–engages with sound and light. The Cebelrai take the whole the piece to another level as they evocatively portray Sammy’s past memories. The audience marvels at the display and holds their breath as they hope there isn’t a fall. It mirrors the emotional risk that both Sammy and Katie are taking in their reunion and completely engages the audience in their emotional dilemma. Finally, Bhattacharjee as Sammy really engages when we see him in his past life as the Ring Master. At this point, he fully inspires the audience.
In the end, Menon’s writing is profound and is worth the admission in itself. There is a lot of raw talent in this production, and if I may use a football metaphor, a lot of spectacular plays: the type that really take your breath away. They are unexpected, brave, and refreshing. When you leave the stadium, you’ll be thinking this is a team with a future and real promise. I guarantee you’ll be rooting for them and be stirred by their ingenuity. V
Presented by Red Betty Theatre
@ The Lyric Theatre.
434 King St W., Hamilton