I'm a writer with a love of young adult novels, musical theatre and vegetarian food.
All-Indigenous contemporary circus ensemble asks 'Who am I?'
Overall rating: ★★★★
Australia's only Indigenous contemporary circus ensemble explores Indigenous identity in modern Australia in their award-winning show Chasing Smoke. The ensemble of talented young performers combine dance, aerial skills, sketch comedy, monologue and floor-based routines into a circus performance like no other.
Directed by Casus Circus' co-founder Natano Fa'anana, the show explores stories past and present of its 5 performers. It carries a strong social message with compassion and understanding while challenging stereotypes of Aboriginal Australians.
The use of music and costumes are integral to helping the ensemble tell their stories and perspectives on their own terms. The performance highlights how popular music makes both positive and negative references to race on a global and national scale. In particular, they point out that one of Australia's best-known and most successful songs has a (since deleted) verse using offensive slang for Aboriginal Australians. It sparks an important conversation about a European version of history, even in recent decades, that marginalises and neglects the First Australians.
At times the performance takes a surprisingly humorous approach to serious subjects such as white assimilation and systemic racial discrimination. There is no consistent narrative to the performance instead flowing through solo and collaborative pieces using dance and circus and drawing on powerful personal stories. The connection to land, culture, spiritual beliefs and teachings from the Dreamings are themes throughout.
It is clear the young ensemble are no strangers to performance as their showmanship is dazzling and their wicked smiles engage the crowd. The ensemble makes use of circus equipment such as rope, juggling balls, diablos and hula hoops to excite the audience and there is an element of clown as they gather props and costumes from the stage dressed as robots.
The combination of circus and storytelling in 'Chasing Smoke' is a thought-provoking and gasp-worthy performance exploring what it means to be a descendant of the world's oldest living culture in modern Australia. You'll be left wanting more.