Playhouse Theatre, QPAC
September 19, 2018

Bodies litter the stage, strewn limp in front of a bleak grey tarpaulin-like curtain. Amongst the bodies a dishevelled vagrant – tenor Robert Murray –sings the Ständchen from Schubert’s Schwanengesang, his tone dark and plaintive, accompanied by an invisible piano. The bodies recede, as if dragged by unseen forces, under the gap in the curtain, while one remains writhing and contorting before the singer.

The visceral first half of contemporary circus company Circa’s En Masse, receiving its world premiere at the Brisbane Festival, paints a grim picture of the end of the world: an abstract, post-apocalyptic nightmare set to a soundtrack of Schubert lieder and an electronic score by Klara Lewis. Mingling contemporary dance and circus, the show unfolds in episodes, the music of Schubert (songs from Schwanengesang and Winterreise) and Lewis’ score alternating. Violent, scorching electronics accompany jolting performers caged in an inflatable cube, the acrobats leaping for the sides and ceiling. As he sings In Der Ferne, Murray gazes in at the imprisoned humans, at one point touching his hand to that of a captive through the clear barrier.

Circa, En MasseCirca’s En Masse. Photo...