In 'Chasing Smoke', circus feats, dance, stand-up and sketch comedy combine in a unique show that provides a glimpse into the world’s oldest living culture – told through the boundless art of contemporary circus.
Created through the Circus Oz BLAKflip programme, 'Chasing Smoke' debuted at the 2017 inaugural Yirramboi Festival in Melbourne and was winner of the 2017 Green Room Awards for Best Contemporary Circus act.
Following its Melbourne debut, 'Chasing Smoke' was taken on by Brisbane-based Casus Circus who were better able to accommodate the show into their programming and help build its audience.
Directed by Samoan-Australian director Natano Fa’anana (who is best known for his collaborative work with Polytoxic, and Casus Circus) Natano is a storyteller who chooses to learn from individuals rather than institutions and in this production he poses the burning question facing most Indigenous people, ‘Who am I?’.
With a soundtrack that includes '80s disco, contemporary pop, and music by Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 'Chasing Smoke' is both irreverent and deadly serious, poking fun at the dysfunctional stereotyping of our indigenous peoples and their interactions with modern white society.
'Chasing Smoke' is more than a circus act, it is revelatory and disturbing theatre offering powerful personal stories, thought-provoking commentary and evocative music that bring some of the audience to tears. But despite its overarching themes it never becomes maudlin, nor does it seek to criticise or deliver blame. Instead, the audience is brought together with hope, understanding and the need for a new conversation built around equality, compassion and forgiveness.
Image © Rob Blackburn
There is no shortage of highlights ranging from the detailed floor work to the laugh-out-loud comedy, but the 60 minutes disappear far too quickly – like the sand that is poured from coolamons before being swept away under the performer’s feet in a particularly touching moment.
The six performers, Lara Croydon, Harley Mann, Ally Humphries, Jack Sheppard, Dylan Singh and Pearl Thompson are clearly no newcomers to the stage. They know their craft and are supremely confident, delivering a humorous, dynamic, and touching performance that represents culture, art, family, and country through the medium of contemporary circus.
A sketch about a colonial auctioneer selling off parts of Australia at bargain prices was hilarious while another sketch at the tail end of the show highlighted the discriminatory nature of government policy via a parody of a 1950s-era cooking segment. Nonetheless, it was a tasty way to finish the show with the audience offered bite sized portions of lamington cake – the quintessential Aussie sweet that is black and white.
'Chasing Smoke' is deserving of all the attention it garners. The standing ovation and three curtain calls were testament to the power of the performers and the joy it brought and I would not be surprised if these six artists found themselves on the international circuit in the very near future.
Whatever you do, get a ticket to see this show. You won’t be disappointed.