Circus Side Show

Megan Choritz and Graham Weir’s homage to one of the oldest, most revered, theatrical forms does circus a great justice.

For the last 2000 years, the circus and its performers have formed part of human cultural (and often, sub-cultural) experience. Ever since Roman times, everything at the circus was extreme: the performers’ character and idiosyncrasies, on-and-off stage, their skills and the risk they take in executing them. Their sadness, vices and addictions, their low-lives as downtrodden, often victims, of the society they set out to entertain, form part of theatre’s DNA. Life under the circus top is, after all, a powerful metaphor – where does the act end and real life (under the ˜real’ sky-top) begins?

In the dusty South African spaces of the 1940’s, Jack’s tiny circus moves from town to town. When their star act Marek disappears the circus faces lean times. The ringmaster Jack, the fat lady, the white faced clown, the midget and the tattooed lady all have to pull together. But something has happened to bring the circus bad luck.

The magic of theatre was abundantly present in Sunday’s performance of “A Circus Side Show” at the Cape Town’s Artscape Arena: the cast is superb (it’s a terrible injustice not to mention each and every one of them, they were all excellent, but I must say what a delight it was for me to see Graham and Christine Weir together on stage again!)

The story, pathos to bathos, slapstick to tragedy, is engaging and flowing. The music (with its distinct Eastern European flavour, eclectically mixed with Weir’s signature proto-Indian sound,) is hauntingly beautiful (any CD of the songs planned, please?) The eerie, beautifully poetic set and costumes were astonishing – as they demonstrated how theatre magic works, when the decrepit, dusty, ancient scenery and props got ‘magicked’ through light and music.

More than anything, “A Circus Side Show” is a remarkable work of love – a massive tour-de-force for the writers, the director and each and every member of the cast and crew – my old clown’s hat off to you all, well done!!

The Artscape New Writing Programme should be congratulated on its ongoing support of new writing in our country, it should also be supported. Don’t take my word for it – go see “A Circus Side Show”!!

Book by Graham Weir and Megan Choritz
Music and lyrics by Graham Weir
Directed by Megan Choritz
Musical Direction Amanda Tiffin
Designed by Dicky Longhurst
Lighting by Alfred Rietmann
The Band: Simon Ratcliffe, Gabriella Rivera and Ingrid Salzmann
Starring: Bulelwa Cosa, Christine Weir, Rory Avenstrup, Richard Lothian, Adrian Galley and Graham Weir