Rhythm, space, physicality, and connection are some of the defining features of The Displaced, a physical theatre collaboration between seven circus and physical-theatre artists. The Time in Space Circus, who’ve performed at the Adelaide Fringe in 2016 and 2017, have been previously awarded for past performances and it is clear to see why.
Physical theatre is always a careful blend of space and the body – in the case of The Displaced, it’s the spaces between the bodies and how those spaces are maintained or alternately disregarded. From the opening act, we see their careful consideration of this as the performers move together and apart; they and audience are always aware of the distances between all things at all times. It makes it all the more striking when these boundaries are deliberately disregarded within the performance. Part of this ‘play’ of connections lies within the development of the work. In a conversation with some of the performers afterward, they explained these moments evolved through them saying ‘no, let’s do this instead’ within the physicality of working together. This tension of demands plays out in the performance to an evocative effect.
Alongside physical connection, there’s also a strong presence of rhythm and repetition within the performance. The effect is a mixture of hypnotic moments that draw the audience in and purposeful arrhythmic contrast. Again, this strong emphasis on rhythm makes the audience exceedingly aware of those moments when the rhythm jars, the connections alter, and the space is disregarded. Small note: the music within the performance can get very high and loud, so bring earplugs if you’re sensitive.
The performance is 50 minutes long, but at no point does it drag. Moments of singular action are interspersed with explosive acrobatic group pieces. Similarly, intense acts are broken up with a very specific brand of physical humour. It edges into the bizarrely absurd as the comedic ‘rule of three’ is trespassed by repetitive actions that become inexplicably – engagingly – funny. The parts of the show where this humour works to a fine degree are the off key, off tone, off beat moments – the best being a comedically excellent rendition of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’.
There’s no overarching ‘narrative’ to the performance. Instead, small stories play out between each disparate performer and their relation to one another. The performance doesn’t answer the questions it evokes, instead leading the audiences to wonder how their personal interactions mirror the ones happening before them. Again, according to the performers, this is due to how the individual acts grew organically from the collaborative process. Whilst the show began development around issues like connection and technology, they puzzle through these questions with physicality rather than a narrative. The strands of connection and disconnection come to a close in the final act with a full troupe acrobatic set. There the disconnect is gone, the displacement is gone, and it’s a gut swooping delight to watch.
Words by Taeghan Buggy.
The Displaced is playing at the Tandanya Theatre every day (except Mondays & Tuesdays) until March 4. Tickets available here.