Image description: on a dark stage, seven women with drawn-on moustaches, and wearing black sports-attire, over-exaggerate flexing their arm muscles.
By Katie McAllister
Opening this Auslan-interpreted performance, Director of the award-winning YUCK Circus Georgia Deguara said, “It’s nice to come home.” After a year of touring their critically-acclaimed show, and winning both the 2019 Martin Sims Award and Melbourne Fringe’s ‘Best Circus’ Award, YUCK Circus was home. The entire state of WA is better for that fact.
We were in stitches about menstruation, drinking, the pack mentality of male friendship, dating and the male gaze. The show opens with the women strutting around, grunting and leering at the audience, with socks in their undies and pencilled-on moustaches. It felt like we were the subjects of the male gaze – this obtrusive and weird and uncomfortable stare. Which was just genius – turning the gaze that traditionally objectifies and fetishes female circus performers back on the audience. We were staring at athletic female bodies performing and parodying toxic masculinity, and it was hilarious.
It’s so important to see women’s bodies on stage as athletes, comedians and performers, instead of sexualised objects. And it’s empowering realise that one of the best shows you’ve ever seen is made up of seven women mostly from regional Australia or WA who all have a wicked sense of humour.
It feels stupid to say after seeing YUCK Circus, but I always assumed that conversations around sexuality and feminism were found in the theatre shows or the stand-up shows or the poetry shows of a Fringe Festival. Circus is where you go to tap out. But, turns out, critiquing binge drinking culture, rape culture and the stigma around menstruation can be physical and fucking funny. Quite seriously, the promo material reads, “We’re not lightly throwing around women’s issues – we’re literally throwing women.” No punches were pulled and now I don’t think I can talk about feminism without eating an entire jar of Nutella or learning acrobatics.
So this isn’t a typical circus. At one point, Georgia said, “I guess some of you came here expecting circus? For the purists, this is for you.” What follows is an impressive feat of acrobatics, but it’s about two minutes of the show, and then we’re back to physical comedy. It felt like the troupe knew how to do circus and put on a traditional acrobatic show, but instead, wanted to poke fun at all the things women are meant to put up with and laugh at politely. I was so glad I was in the front row for all of it.
Go for the clowning, dance, aerials (praise be to Jessica Smart), acrobatics, comedy (Ella Norton is one of the best character and physical comedians ever) and stay for a show that takes aim at disgust unfairly levelled at women’s bodies, that transgresses social expectations, and celebrates feminine strength and solidarity. And stay for the end of the show – where all the performers are waiting outside to chat to you and collect donations for sanitary products. The best.
YUCK Circus is on for another week at the Big Top in the Pleasure Garden. Take all of your friends and use all of your savings and buy $30 tickets here.
Five Nutella jars out of five.
Katie now REALLY wants to get fit so she can run away and join this circus.
Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD Festival
Woodside Petroleum is a principal sponsor of FRINGE WORLD Festival. Pelican has been a long-time supporter of the Festival, and will continue to show its support. However, the Magazine feels it is unethical for Woodside Petroleum to remain a principal sponsor of FRINGE WORLD, given the current climate emergency, and Woodside’s ongoing contribution to climate change.
Other Festivals have demonstrated that ethical sources of funding are possible – you can read more, and sign the petition, here: https://www.change.org/p/fringeworld-side-with-the-climate-and-drop-woodside-petroleum // #fossilfreefringe #fossilfreearts // Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action.