Recently I witnessed something very special. It was the powerful Circus in a Teacup by Vulcana Circus. This groundbreaking show featured fourteen performers, all of whom had been affected by gender – based abuse. The show was filled with acrobatics, aerial work, stories, music, interpretative dance and choreographed routines. It was a triumph of strength and resilience over darkness.
The performers used everyday objects to show their constant struggle, keeping all their balls and plates in the air, balancing on the kitchen table, weathering storms that rattle the china,
transforming spaces of danger into safety, staring down harm, demanding change and sharing their secret dramas for everyone to hear.
This show was an exquisitely beautiful contemporary circus performance, in which Vulcana Circus members collaborated with survivors to tell stories of recovery, resilience and triumph. Vulcana Circus is Queensland’s longest- running women’s arts company. In this production they partnered with Brisbane Domestic Violence Service, part of Micah Projects, to bring a wildly powerful work which draws on Vulcana’s extensive experience in creating transformative works of physical performance.
We all loved the stories interspersed between the action where women shared special memories and treasured possessions which sparked joy. There was the tiny hippo which opened up to show the shine inside. The seamstress who hoped her sewing machine and the hours spent sewing with her children would provide them with some happy memories. There was the Australian who became a master of Tahitian dance and could speak French after living there. These accomplishments reminded her of her worth in the darkest of times.
There was the woman who bought the most beautiful flowing pink traditional Korean dress after leaving her husband. We laughed as she said she’d left the colour navy behind.There was a woman whose watch was a gift from her Dad. It reminded her in the dark times that time never stands still and things can change. The stories were beautiful and extremely uplifting, dotted throughout the circus performances and highlighted through video.
The props used for the circus highlighted the topic , with seemingly innocuous domestic items; chairs, tables, frames and tea cups used to convey emotion, to perform acts of aerial and acrobatic strength and beauty, and to frame the context.The feats of daring grew and became ever more powerful as the show built. I loved the music and wanted to jump on stage and dance with a sense of abandon when Bondage by Xray Specs came on.
Speaking to the cast after the performance I was surprised to hear that the circus troupe had only been together for six months and rehearsing for four. They would meet every Sunday afternoon at Vulcana. Many of the women had never done anything like this before and suddenly they were balancing on a high wire.
I spoke to one woman who said it had been so empowering and had given her the strength to work through the mound of paperwork that comes with divorce and domestic violence cases. She said, “ Once I am through all that I will do something for other women in the same situation. I want to make a difference. I feel so much stronger now.”
Circus in a Teacup has strengthened the women in mind, body and spirit and was a glorious show to watch. From high wire acts to levitating tables, dance, performance and more we learned these women’s very personal and individual stories and marvelled at their new found skills. Many of us left changed , educated and emotional after watching these brave women and I hope that each and every one goes on to enjoy a better and calmer life. This was a story of a different kind of emancipation. The women of Circus in a Teacup have shared their story of picking up the pieces and learning to fly high.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).