NICA: We All Fall Down

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CIRCUS ARTS: NICA'S latest show 'We All Fall Down' is inspired by the ‘chaos of a child’s bedroom’ and if this were a kid’s bedroom, it might be a parent’s worst nightmare.
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For a kid coming to the NICA Circus Centre for the first time, just entering the black cavernous space, the huge wall that backs the seating stand, the way their shadows cast eerie shapes as they run around to see the stage area to stare up at the lofty metal rigging, the human shapes creeping through the rigging preparing the trapeze, tissu, and ropes is fantasy realised. And then if they can sit still long enough it begins.

The National Institute of Circus Arts’ latest show We All Fall Down is inspired by the ‘chaos of a child’s bedroom’ and if this were a kid’s bedroom – well, it might be a parent’s worst nightmare. The death defying heights, swings, rolls, tumbles, even the juggling can be dangerous!

And as if to prove the point the show begins with the seeming innocence of 21 performers donning their assortment of super-hero like costume to a sound track of whispered childhood memories. They lean nonchalantly, in poses any parent with teenagers would recognise, against three mats then one by one they’re dragged, swallowed and taken behind the ‘wall’.

This is followed by a hilarious routine of jealousy, desire and one-up-manship as performers Sam Aldham, Chris Carlos, Sara Irvine and the charming Takayuki Seki battle it out for seating supremacy on a single red chair. In a school-yard like sequence there are see-sawing leaps on the Korean plank, unicycles, and tumbles to carnival-like accordion. Then the ropes come down from the rigging like tendrils to a sound scape of birdcalls, whispers, bells and dreamy rattles like dragonfly wings, a forest like tree house. Performers climb sinuously to the heights, rippling the ropes in a hypnotic cobra dance as they curl, wrap and gracefully tumble.

Of course, the kids (and the grown ups) love it. The dressing up, the slap-stick and the feigned fears of the performers and the real fears of the audience as performers defy gravity with only their sensational grip on the Chinese poles, sliding headfirst at the floor -are all lapped up. There were plenty of Os Rs OMGs and LOLs to entertain even the most jaded kids in this 1hr 45min show.

A collaboration between guest director Debra Batton, second year NICA students and a creative team that includes Circus Oz Musical Director, Chris Lewis, We All Fall Down uses a child-like play, imagination and fears to theme show off these “artists-in-the-makings” range of circus skills, incredible strength, tensility, kazoo-work, and theatrics.

Debra Batton has returned to Melbourne after more than a decade as Artistic Director of Legs on the Wall. She’s also known for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival she co-directed ‘On the Case’, which won her two Helpmann awards, her work with Opera Australia, Australian Theatre for Young People and Circus Oz amongst a host of others.

‘Childhood and the circus make perfect companions,’ Batton says. ‘This cast of twenty-one talented and creative young performers are courageously playful with their magic-making circus skills.’

Courageous, oh yes, as rock, paper, scissors seems to decide who will leap from the tower to the mat below. And awesome, such as the weird entangled poses of the double traipse. Juggling so fast and furious between twists and tumbles you wonder which is being juggled the balls or the people. There’s a sequence within a tissu of stretchable netting (that at times encased the performer) to show what spiders would do if they liked heavy rock. The astounding beauty of ‘the girl in the moon’ by which I mean the way she suspends herself inside the aerial ring. She languidly turns, twists and hold gob-smacking poses with dazzlingly control and manages to make hanging head first from the back of her heels look sensuous; while below David Coombs gives a human impression of a perpetual motion desk ornament within the Roué Cyr (a metal hoop sized like a mining truck).

Thankfully, we are reminded that this is tough stuff by the jeering and cheering juggling act and the finale of synchronised hoop diving with tumbles, karate moves and complicated contortions that even they occasionally knocked down.

As we left with our overwrought six year old barely able to stay awake but still struggling to stay longer so she could get the performers autographs, I had to remind myself these were still performers in training, uni students despite the remarkable pedigree they’ve already brought to NICA. And I thanked god that it’s not me that cleans up after their parties, cause wow, with all that energy and exuberance they would be something to see.

We All Fall Down
Directed by Debra Batton
NICA National Circus Centre
15 – 26 June
Evenings: 15, 17, 18, 19, 22, 25, 26 @ 7.30pm
23, 24 @ 6.30pm
School Matinees: 16, 24 June @ 1.30pm
Saturday Matinees: 19, 26 June @ 1.30

Tickets: $22 Adults, $20 Concession $14 Child
$55 Family (2 Adults + 2 children)
Call: 03 9214 6975

Fiona Mackrell
About the Author
Fiona Mackrell is a Melbourne based freelancer. You can follow her at @McFifi or check out