Performance review: Tempo, Arts Centre Melbourne

The Fruities jump back onto our stages with a music themed performance.
Teenage performers in tuxedos and shorts jump out of a white piano in Tempo by the Flying Fruit Fly Circus at Art Centre Melbourne.

The latest production from the Flying Fruit Fly Circus (the Fruities) starts with a solitary white piano onstage, a strangely high art image for the circus company known for its cheeky performances. A muttering conductor emerges, looking for a lost orchestra before the set-up is explosively upended as circus performers leap from the piano to fill in for the missing musos.

The performers (ranging in age from 12 to 17) are a multi-talented bunch, bringing together classic circus skills with magic, music and dance. From their first explosion onto the stage they juggle, tumble and leap through the set, using the piano as an entrance and an escape between pieces. Just when the conductor thinks she has caught a cast member who has swiped her baton, they disappear into the piano, only to see another performer pop out. It is a hard-working set as they bounce into and out of the piano to switch scenes and performers in a show that never loses its pace.

Music connects Tempo and musical director Ania Reynolds’ score shrugs off the typical conductor’s classical playlist, embracing rhythmic pieces slapped out on chests or stomped by the feet of the performers themselves. As well as having polished circus skills, many of the cast are musicians, adding their instruments to the performance. Particularly playful is the squabble over a piano piece as each member of the cast cavorts past, slapping a key while others try to perform a serious composition. A clarinet accompanies the silk performance, an electric guitar duels with a juggler and the impression is of wildly talented cast relishing music and mayhem.

Read: Theatre review: Slippery, The Butterfly Club, Midsumma Festival

Having performed with Circus Oz and NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts), director Jake Silvestro brings his depth of experience as an acrobat to the production, working the young performers to flip and fly through the performance. Choreography bonds performances together and allows for transitions between spotlit aerial hoops and full cast dances. If a cast member fumbles, they fumble fast and recover even faster, so the audience moves quickly to the next spectacle. Some of the magic pieces are harder to appreciate in a larger venue like Arts Centre Melbourne and would benefit from more intimate venues. But there is a hardly a wrong note in this show that beats with fun and energy.

The exuberance and skill of the young performers is at the fore of Tempo, as it swings through its virtuoso performance. The Fruities prove once again that they are among Australia’s best circus companies for new talent with another on-song show.

Flying Fruit Fly Circus

Arts Centre Melbourne
Director: Jake Silvestro
Musical Director: Ania Reynolds

Creative Circus Associate: Lauren Shepherd
Lighting Designer: Kofi Isaacs
Costume Designer: April Dawson
Rigger: Daryll John
Performers: Aoife Gordos, Barney Herrmann, Chelsea Quaill, Elise Doherty, Emma Giasoumi, Finn Neill, Imogen McDonald, Jacob Kavanagh, Maya Chynoweth, Nate Klippel, Peter Giasoumi and Tal Shemesh

Additional performances
Wangaratta Performing Arts & Convention Centre – 15 March
Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool – 19-20 March
Bunjil Place, Narre Warren – 23 March
Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo – 27-28 March
Wagga Wagga Civic Centre – 4-5 April
Griffith Regional Theatre – 9-10 April
Orange Civic Theatre – 12 April
Riverside Theatres, Sydney – 16-17 April
The Art House Wyong – 19-20 April
The Glass House, Port Macquarie – 24-26 April
Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs – 4 May

George Dunford was Director of Content at ArtsHub, Screenhub and GamesHub (2019-2022). He has also written for Meanjin, The Big Issue, Lonely Planet, The Good Food Guide and others. Long ago he co-founded Cardigan Press, a collective that published four volumes of short fiction. He has worked in digital leadership roles in the cultural sector for more than 10 years including at the National Library of Australia, National Museum of Australia and the Wheeler Centre. He was a mentor in the CEO Digital Mentorship program working with Back to Back and Desart. You can follow him on X: @Hack_packer