Wonderfully engaging

By Narelle Wood

This year’s National Institute of Circus Arts graduating artists perform Born in Sawdust, an insight into the world of circus performing and the trainers behind the performers.


Inspired by former trainer Kostya Ibraguimov, and the stories and dedication of other trainers and mentors, Born in Sawdust follows one circus performer’s dream to one-day work for the famed Monte Carlo Circus. Director Gavin Robin showcases the vast and impressive talents of many of NICA’s graduating students, as artists use trapeze, tumbling, high wires, and some clowning around to add light and shade to this intriguing story.

The performance focuses on the characters portrayed by Adam O’Connor-McMahon, Elke Uhd and Simone Salle, as they form a family within the larger circus family. O’Connor-McMahon is charming; there is something completely endearing about his performance throughout the entire show, regardless of the skills (and there are many) that he is showcasing. While Uhd’s performance of strength and balance on the Cyr Wheel received “wows” from the audience members around me, I couldn’t help but smile at Salle’s joyous, and occasionally insolent, performance as the Fat Clown. The group ensemble work was also impressive, the drunken slapstick tumbling of the Bar Scene looked like the sort of party that everyone would want to be a part of.

But it wasn’t just the story and the skills of these circus artists that made this performance so interesting. Born in Sawdust also makes use of digital projections, provided by students, under the guidance of coordinator Lisa Robins, from Swinburne University of Technology’s Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media. Live performers, live shadows and digitally projected shadows intermingle to provide the most captivating silhouettes and narrative device.

Despite the incredible strength and skill of circus artists, I often feel anxious when watching circus performances, but that was not the case this time. Born in Sawdust took me along on the journey through the sacrifices, injuries, hard work and jubilation of following a dream to join the circus. It is an enchanting circus tale told with just the right mix of heartbreak and humour.

Venue: NICA National Circus Centre, 39-59 Green St, Prahran
Season: Until 28th November, Wed-Sat 7.30pm, Sat matinee 1.30pm
Tickets: Full $36| Conc $29