Let loose your inner animal at the Cork Midsummer Festival

Acrobatic circus performers Circa will be one of the highlights of Cork Midsummer Festival, writes Colette Sheridan

DESCRIBED as ‘the rock stars of circus’, Australian company, Circa, will premiere its show, ‘Beyond’ at the Everyman as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. The touring company has performed in Galway, Dublin and Belfast and is coming to Cork for the first time, with its acrobatic theatre performances .

The director of Beyond, Yaron Lifschitz, says Circa is part of a movement that has helped redefine circus, turning it into a respected art form. Circa fulfils audience expectations that demand a narrative and an emotional experience when at the theatre.

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“What we do is more than just a spectacle,” says Lifschitz.

“In Beyond, there is narrative material. It’s about a group of strange people that come together. During the show, audiences will become quite close to them. A beautiful surreal journey takes place. It’s really a warm-hearted show that is funny and touching.

“Some of our work can be very contemporary. This feels a lot more generous and open-hearted. It will suit the Irish temperament very well. The audience will have its spirit touched. It is performed to a soundtrack which is an important part of the dramaturgy and the emotional life of the piece.”

The soundtrack, which features show tunes, ballads and electronica, includes the voice of Cork-born chanteuse, Camille O’Sullivan who performed with Circa in Brighton recently.

“I chose the music with great care because it really does form part of the meaning of the show,” says Lifschitz.

The show includes a spectacle of giant rabbit heads.

“I don’t want to explain too much about that. Let’s just say that the show starts by asking questions about the inner animal that everyone has. The rabbit heads are an extension of that animal. They’re also quirky and playful and suggest a sense of humour. They’re used in a variety of different ways.”

Rubik’s cubes and blindfolds are part of the show, which features seven performers.

Lifschitz and his acrobats say they enjoy performing in Ireland because the country has such a strong dramatic tradition.

“I always notice in Ireland the strength of storytelling. The Irish like a story.”

Circa, which has an ensemble of 25 artists, is supported by the federal government of Australia.

“These are difficult times for arts funding in Australia. We have fought very hard to raise the profile of Circa. Where ever we are, we’re seen as advocates of some of the good things arts funding can offer, bringing accessible work to people all over the world.”

Part of their remit is to promote Australian culture on an international stage.

Beyond is suitable for families. “What I really love about the show is that there’s nothing calculated about it. It’s just really alive and it’s not chasing a particular audience demographic.”

Audiences of up to 40,000 are expected at the Cork Midsummer Festival. Guest curator, Kath Gorman says the programme reflects the fact that there are some really talented artists in Cork.

“She says that of the 43 events being staged, 70% of them are local, 20% are from Irish artists outside of Cork with the remaining 10% of the programme being international. As well as showcasing local work, budgetary constraints are part of the reason for the largely homegrown programme.

“I think audiences like to see work by Cork and Irish artists. And it’s good to bring in international companies. We’re not working with the same level of budgets we would have had in the past.

“We have some great partners in the city. UCC is a key partner this year. They’re developing a conference over the second weekend of the festival. It will look at research and practices in the creative arts.”

Gorman is well aware that Cork people often tend to leave it until the last minute to buy tickets for events.

But she is pleased to report that one event, ‘Our Table’, which will see Oliver Plunkett Street transformed into an outdoor dining room featuring food from local restaurants, is already fully booked out.

Organisers hope that other events in the eclectic programme will be similarly supported.

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MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

Opening the festival, the ever popular Lords of Strut, famed for their ‘flash raves’, will host an outdoor flash mob dance.

Picnic in the Park: Some 8,000 people are expected to take part in this event at Fitzgerald’s Park. It will feature Dowtcha and street theatre company, Whalley Range All Stars.

Pig: This pop-up installation features a nine metre-long sleeping pig on Emmet Place. A 10-minute piece of theatre will take place inside the belly of the giant Pig, which can be viewed by 10 people at a time.

During the festival, Cork Opera House will celebrate its 160th anniversary with a gala presentation from acts such as Jimmy McCarthy, Cara O’Sullivan, Fiona Shaw and Cork City Ballet. John O’Brien will conduct the RTÉ Orchestra at the event.

The closing event of the festival, Bold as Brass, from Music Generation Cork City, takes place on June 21, the summer solstice, at Elizabeth Fort. There will be more than 100 brass, saxophone and percussion players. Bold as Brass will be performed at three different times (for 30 minute durations) on the day.

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