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Getting Personal with Circa

Circa’s Artistic Director, Yaron Lifschitz shares some of the influences behind their brand new performance, The Return; opera, epic ancient Greek mythology and why this piece is particularly personal.

“Sometimes, as they say in the movies, ‘this one is personal’. That is how I feel about The Return.

It’s personal because for the past 17 years I have believed, naively, totally and to the embarrassment of many doubters that this genre of circus is a real artform. That it can express deep emotions and higher truths, that it can grapple with issues, exalt our spirits and touch our souls. It is constantly debased by the idea that it can only entertain.

It’s personal because the classic works of antiquity have much to teach us. I came to them late, mainly through reading the great Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert whose writings changed my life. Once I heard the deep mythic music of antiquity with its gods, struggles, passions and forms, I would never be free of its power.




The full cast refining a tricky ground acrobatics move before the opening night performance in Brisbane last year. Photo by Chris Herzfeld

It’s personal because I love opera and there are so many stories filled with the same crushing nostalgia, post-traumatic memory and cold hope that I heard beating at the heart of Monteverdi’s operatic score Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria. It is only through good fortune and the caprices of history that my family ended in the sun of Australia rather than the persecution of Europe and it is beholden on us to tell of it.

So I wanted to break it all. To rebuke those who think opera is about sets and warbling, to annoy those who believe circus is an extension of the strip club or adolescent technicolour lycra fantasy and to challenge our acrobats to embrace the new, invest themselves and pursue what is vital and necessary.


Nicky Faubert balancing on one arm on the handstand canes. Photo by Chris Herzfeld

I doggedly believe that when we challenge ourselves, when we make it personal, when we try to communicate difficult, inexpressible things and when we share them, raw, vulnerable and without the safety net of convention, then we have continued to help a little to keep culture alive – culture which may be our only defence.”

Circa’s The Return is performed from 23–31 January, as part of London International Mime Festival

Watch Circa in rehearsal for The Return.