Contemporary Circus at the Chamäleon Theatre Berlin
In the heart of East Berlin, in the historic Hackesche Höfe, you will find the Chamäleon Theatre. The building is glorious; Art Nouveau, built in 1906 and restored to its original splendour after decades of Soviet-era neglect. Hackesche Höfe was occupied and revitalized by the artistic community soon after ‘The Wall’ came down. It is now a thriving colony, full of small creative businesses, with pretty courtyards and passageways, adorned with fabulous street art. The theatre was once a ballroom and a venue for eccentric vaudeville. It retains a distinctive 1920’s character – think Stephen Spender, Christopher Isherwood, Liza Minelli…and has the unmistakable feel of a sultry nightclub, with intimate cabaret-style seating where audiences order drinks and food whilst enjoying a party atmosphere throughout the show.
Since 2004 the Chamäleon team has dedicated itself to the art of contemporary circus, bringing to Berlin some of the most successful creative talents of the international circus scene; staging innovative productions, which defy conventions and challenge expectations. The conceptual approach blurs boundaries between different genres such as acrobatics, dance, music and physical theatre, creating an exciting, unique, convivial environment where you are never far from the action. Each season a new company takes a six-month residency, enabling Berlin residents and visitors from all around the world to come and experience the real soul of theatre in the ingenious and exciting form of contemporary circus. What makes these shows so wonderfully accessible is that language is no barrier. No matter where you come from, you will be thrilled and entertained – with whatever adventure the Chamäleon Theatre has in store for you!
CIRCA’S Peepshow at the Chamäleon Theatre
I was invited to the Chamäleon theatre in Berlin, for the fifth time, to see their latest production: ‘Peepshow’. I have never been less than amazed by the experience – and this was to be no exception.
CIRCA is the renowned contemporary circus company from Brisbane Australia, whose ensemble showcases some of the most extraordinarily talented artists, under the inspired direction of circus visionary Yaron Lifschitz. Peepshow opened in September 2018 and runs until February 2019. It started life as a one hour show which played at London’s Underbelly for six weeks before moving to Berlin, where it developed into a two-hour extravaganza, with two very different halves – no longer ‘in the round’, but end-on(front facing) in Chamäleon’s unique space. The name might conjure up images of seedy strip clubs in Soho, but leave your preconceptions at the door – for this is no ordinary ‘Peepshow’. CIRCA takes you into a whole new circus world. Provocative and sexy, it invites; it compels us to watch, to be entertained – and totally blown away. Peepshow plays with perspectives, with voyeurism, exhibitionism; it explores how we respond when we’re being watched. How much do we reveal? And how intimate are we prepared to be?
Act One is an explosive rollercoaster ride, charged with heightened emotions and breathtaking acrobatics, performed by a troupe of seven artists with strong, sculpted bodies, dressed in…not much at all…other than tight, sequinned hot pants. This is a journey full of risk and invention, which on many occasions had me breathless, on the edge of my seat with my heart in my mouth.
The interval buzz is terrific.
Act Two cleverly turns everything on its head.
The pace changes, and we are invited to witness how differently we behave if we think no one is looking…
This is curiosity; by turn delicate and tentative, charged and stormy – ephemeral, intimate; a moving world, full of feeling and wonderment. The audience is entranced as performers make their connections; exploring, discovering and building relationships, using the power and discipline of minds and bodies. Pushing physicality to its limits, these artists create a world suspended in time; enchanted, seductive and far from daily life.
Each has his or her own unique speciality – and among this seven – strong cast, some are more seasoned than others – but each brings remarkable talent, individuality and charm. The phenomenal Jessica Connell takes the art of Hula-Hooping to another level, whilst simultaneously performing an erotic striptease. Nathan Knowles acrobatics are beautiful and more akin to dance; his agility and strength left me open-mouthed, and from my front seat I was able to see every muscle of his beautiful body. Scott Grove performs an act in which he gradually ‘inflates’ his body with air – pumping every muscle and vein to the point you think he might just explode.
Bodies stack one upon one another with unfathomable strength and focus; they fly perilously and elegantly through the air, light as feathers, with flawless precision. The set was simple; a shimmering curtain and neon ‘Peepshow’ sign which had a remarkable presence throughout, emphasizing by turns different letters. In fact, Jason Organ’s fabulous lighting design played an enormous role in the narrative, as did the rollicking good soundtrack of upbeat jazz tracks – including Louis Prima’s ‘Just a Gigolo’ and Amanda Lear’s ‘Let Me Entertain You’ – as well as old pop classics like the wonderful ‘Sweet Dreams’.Peepshow really is a must see if you are visiting Berlin. I came away moved and inspired by its fearless, aesthetic exploration of bodies and spirits in motion. This is Theatre that engages the senses and challenges perceptions, celebrating intimacy and human collaboration. A breath-taking journey into Circus.
CIRCA’S PEEPSHOW at the CHAMÄLEON Theatre
Showing until 17th February 2019
(Not suitable for children aged under 14)
Book here: www.chamaeleonberlin.com