Circus review: (Excerpts from) Nimble, Theatre Royal

Tasmania's circus troupe presented a show nimble in name and act.
ROOKE perform Nimble at Theatre Royal Hobart. A balding man with a beard holds a hoop up over the heads of an audience of children and parents sitting on the floor. He wears a green T shirt and white shorts.

This cutting-edge circus company showcases world-class performers (with a heritage from Cirque Éloize, CIRCA, Circus Oz and Les 7 Doigts de la Main), Tasmania’s own ROOKE is a little gem of physicality based in Launceston. 

Nimble is designed specifically for small town touring (dubbed Circus Across Tasmania or CAT) and was assisted through the Strategic Touring Fund, an initiative of the Tasmanian Performing Arts Centres. Integral to the touring schedule were a series of workshops and community engagements. Nimble, as its name suggests, toured with all its own gear and was performed within a four- by four-metre square taped to the floor. 

This three-hander was directed by Conor Wild, with Artistic Director and performer Freyja Wild joined by dancer and circus artist Cecilia Martin and acrobat and clown Jamie Bretman. The combination of these humans was joyful. 

Bretman opened the show and immediately captivated the intimate three-sided audience with his eyes. Seemingly with little effort, he encouraged participation from children and adults, requiring them to fulfil tasks with the most subtle raising of an eyebrow. They were putty in his hands, marking out the performance space, stacking giant Jenga-like props, while he helped himself to their popcorn. 

Martin and Wild entered the space and Bretman’s block antics took on a more serious tone. A bit of friendly competition emerged as the skills of each were gradually woven into relationships with other bodies and objects. Great facial expressions showed the level of trust and confidence they have in each other. The building blocks of this work were established and the games between them began. 

With increasing challenges, strength and agility were balanced with calm camaraderie. At times Martin’s body was a liquid contrast to Wild’s feats of fine steppingstone balance; at other times it was Bretman at the base of a human tower. The movement was playful and plain fun; it invoked a sense of wonder and captures stillness in its midst. 

Read: Circus review: Luzia, Cirque du Soleil, Flemington Racecourse

The introduction of a hoop was not the cue for some classic tricks, but a prop that took on a persona of its own and was utilised by each artist in their own way. Cheeky looks and smiles continued the intimate approach to quite extreme physical feats, while dares and challenges drew on the interpersonal care and assurance these performers delivered to the highly impressed audience. 

Nimble did everything it set out to achieve and more. 

(Excerpts from) Nimble
Theatre Royal Hobart, Tasmania
Director: Conor Wild
Production Design: Ryan Mahony
Touring Technician: Alex Chatwin-Dalgleish
Community Engagement: SuperSillyUs Circus (Tom Slater and Dana Jensen)
Cast: Cecilia Martin, Freyja Wild, Jamie Bretman

(Excerpts from) Nimble was performed at Theatre Royal as part of the Staycation Foyer Activation on 24 April 2024 before touring to Moonah Arts Centre, Triabunna and Cygnet. 

Lesley Graham has been active in dance and dance education for over 30 years. She is a regular reviewer for ArtsHub and Dance Australia, a curriculum consultant, and represents Ausdance National on the National Advocates for Arts Education (NAAE).