The Space Between

Roundhouse Theatre (Circa)


Created by Yaron Lifschitz and the Circa Ensemble

Professional production

As T.S. Eliot knew, there has to be a space between, but in his poem The Hollow Men it’s always filled by something sinister. “Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the Shadow,” he said, but Yaron Lifschitz and Circa have successfully set out to prove him wrong. There are certainly shadows in the spaces between the three performers, but they are shadows of beautiful things – lights forming magical patterns to frame the movement, music from everyone from J.S. Bach to Jacques Brel and Cake to give them a context.

Circa’s director, Yaron Lifschitz , gives a deeply metaphysical explanation of his concept which, he says, “eschews narrative and character, though is full of suggestions of both. Three performers meet and explore themselves, each other and, most importantly, the spaces between them, in a range of intense physical encounters.”

If you can’t quite follow the rhetoric of his program notes, which I found very impenetrable at times, it doesn’t matter, for the sheer skill of the performers, and the compelling music and lighting, weave their own kind of metaphysic which, with all due respect to Yaron, I think goes deeper than words can convey. But if you do want to explore his ideas further, I refer you to Circa’s website,, where you will find it set out in full.

In one sense, then, it’s futile to attempt to review this show, because all a reviewer can do is assess the performances against the conceptual background. As there’s no narrative, all I can do is share a few of my impressions after I gave up trying to intellectualise and simply settled back to appreciate the performers’ mastery of their craft, and the evocative soundscape and lighting.

There are three performers, two men and one woman. The space is square and dark, lit by a single spot. A young man (James Kingsford-Smith) enters, clad in singlet and black trousers. He stands silent for a moment and then, without warning, falls backwards, arms always by his side, so smoothly that you’re not aware of his knees bending to help him hit the ground. Gaps of appreciation and shock and, in my case, groans of pain as I gingerly straighten my own back.

But he doesn’t stop there. He does it again, and again, and again, with the same perfection of timing that he seems to be an automaton. He is joined by a young woman (Chelsea McGuffin) and they play a soundless game of capture and escape, kissing and killing. The second man (Darcy Grant) enters, the lighting changes to suggest prison bars, and there is a sinister duet as the young men stalk each other. Meanwhile,. McGuffin does some ineffectual things with a strip of cloth, and as the music changes so do the actions.

It’s fascinating stuff, and the performances were admirable, but I wondered whether McGuffin was recovering from a fall, or had been injured in some way. Much of her movement was tentative and fragile, sometimes she had to struggle to get into position, and the men seemed to carry her emotionally as well as physically.

She came good on the trapeze swing, where she hung by the roof of her mouth, an acrobatic trick I’ve never seen anyone else ever attempt, and eventually recovered her control. I’m not sure whether she was in fact nursing an injury, or whether the choreography was designed to make a deliberate contrast between male and female physicality, but in the end it didn’t matter, because it was an evening that evoked silent gaps of admiration and pleasure, one of the most striking circus shows ever, making a welcome return to the Brisbane stage after their recent successful overseas and interstate tours. We are privileged to have a team of such talent in this city – may we see more of them. Keep an eye on their website for upcoming shows.

Directing, lighting, sound, multimedia and operation by Yaron Lifschitz

Performed by Darcy Grant, James Kingsford-Smith, Chelsea McGuffin

Playing until Monday 9 April 2007: Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday at 6.30pm, Thursday to Saturday at 8pm

Duration : Approximately 60 minutes, no interval

— Alison Cotes
(Performance seen: Sun 1st April 2007)