Circus review: A Cabaret Somewhere Hot and Sticky

Circa Cairns presented a saucy mix of cabaret and acrobatics, capturing a spectrum of moments between bodies moving and connecting on land and through the air.

Stepping foot into the performance area, you are confronted by a stage layout that invokes an Ibiza nightclub feel. Expectations of a traditional stage area exploded upon seeing the audience and performance areas intermingled. In addition, the choice of standing, sitting on chairs or floor and the freedom of unlimited vantage points throughout the space was unintentionally inclusive while being intentionally liberating. Spotlights were utilised as a guide to lead the audience to the next part of the performance, focusing on the vignette about to take place.

The Circa Cairns ensemble performers Crystal Stacey and Ally Humphris, led by Artistic Lead Harley Mann, held the audience’s attention for the two hour performance. Several costume changes throughout gave the audience time to analyse and discuss what they saw in-between each vignette. The audience made use of the time to dance, mingle or to top up on drinks from Bulmba-Ja’s own resident bar and café, The Hungry Pitcher, which was set up within the theatre itself. 

Mann states ‘The key thing for me is that A Cabaret Somewhere Hot and Sticky is a chance for artists to claim ownership of artistic experimentation and to make a space to challenge how we think and make art. The success or failure of the ideas is irrelevant.’ 

The ‘Broken DJ’s’, Nicholas Hills and John De Stage combined with Technical Operator Eben Love work across the performance to elevate the creative physicality and circus skills of the performers.

A little info about Circa Cairns, they are a First Nations-led contemporary circus ensemble. The company’s Creative Lead Mann is a proud Wakka Wakka man, and one of the first First Nations artists to graduate from the National Institute of Circus Arts. Mann is a performer, arts maker, director and Circa Cairns’ leader. The troupe currently comprises three full-time artists and creative producer Rebecca Youdell. It is envisaged that by 2025 the company will grow, to feature seven full-time Cairns based performers – predominantly First Nations artists. Collaborations with guest artists will be a regular feature of the ensemble’s output.

Only by doing can Circa Cairns collaborate to develop their ideas, and produce major productions. The Cairns iteration of Circa hopes to see this event grow to include more and more local artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The continued support by Arts Queensland, Bulmba-Ja, Cairns City Council, Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand Fund (RISE), and Australia council for the arts, will help realise their dream.

Read: Exhibition review: Fantastical Worlds

Cairns’ artistic landscape will only be further enriched by the fresh energies of this group and their collaborative approach. I for one am excited to see them grow and become future leaders in the industry.

A Cabaret Somewhere Hot and Sticky
Produced by Circa Cairns 

Ensemble members: Harley Mann, Ally Humphris, Crystal Stacey
Broken DJ: Nicholas Mills, John De Satge

Iron Maidens: Melanie Jack, Patty Preece
Technical Implementation and Operation: Eben Love
Creative Producer Circa Cairns: Rebecca Youdell

A Cabaret Somewhere Hot and Sticky was performed on 13 August 2022.

Douglas Robins is an Arts worker in far north Queensland, is fanatical about theatre and believes theatre should always be inclusive to all. He completed a B.A. in Theatre and English at James Cook University, Cairns in 2011. An author of short plays and theatre reviews, an actor, director and president of community theatre company Tropical Arts Inc.