Theatre | Landscape with Monsters | Ken Longworth

MONSTROUS FEATS:  Landscape with Monsters combines astonishing circus skills with a compelling narrative about industrialisation.
MONSTROUS FEATS: Landscape with Monsters combines astonishing circus skills with a compelling narrative about industrialisation.

The touring theatrical circus work, Landscape with Monsters, is especially relevant to Newcastle, as it looks at the changes in cities where major industries are closing or downsizing and the impact this has on communities.

The show was developed by Brisbane-based circus company Circa and Wollongong’s Merrigong Theatre Company.

Circa’s artistic director, Yaron Lifschitz, visited the Wollongong steelworks, and noted that it had shed thousands of its employees and had large, virtually empty halls, with just one man sitting at a machine.

But he also saw that the people of Wollongong were determined to maintain enjoyable lifestyles and keep their city growing – the same as what happened when BHP closed its Newcastle steelworks in 1999.

Landscape with Monsters was a critical and box-office hit when it premiered in Wollongong in 2016 and won rave reviews when it was subsequently taken to Britain’s Latitude Festival, a music and theatre event held in rural Sussex.

It received a standing ovation with one reviewer saying that the show’s “heart-stopping series of feats with incredible variety and charm” made Landscape with Monsters “the finest piece of circus I’ve ever seen, but it is also clear and compelling drama”.

The show is very different in style to traditional circus performances, with the seven acrobats - Jessica Connell, Rowan Heydon-White, Gerramy Marsden, Conor Neall, Kathryn O’Keeffe, Seppe Van Looveren, and Billie Wilson-Coffey - dressed in overalls and other work garments, moving in and around large wooden boxes, planks, trestles and ladders, with their actions occasionally giving rise to the dangers that industrial workers can face.

At one point, a team member climbs a sky-high ladder without using his hands, and at various times the artists balance inside boxes while they are stacked or moved in different angles forming larger structures.

One scene has audience members watching in awe, as the performers create a human bridge.

The performances are accompanied by background images of darkish industrial settings that give way to beautiful landscapes and new urban developments being created.

And the sound design includes an engrossing mix of industrial noises and popular melodies, among them David Bowie’s Heroes and Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, a hit for Doris Day.

Landscape with Monsters can be seen at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on Friday and Saturday, July 28 and 29, at 8pm. Ticket prices range from $30 to $48, with special rates for 2017 season subscribers and families. Booking: 4929 1977.