By BRUCE DENNILL
Zip Zap Circus: Moya / Artistic Director: Brent Van Rensburg / Teatro, Montecasino, Fourways, Johannesburg
The value of joy as an outcome of theatre is underappreciated. Moya, happily, is a production that reminds audiences of how it feels. Zip Zap Circus is a not-for-profit organisation looking to use circus arts to help youngsters manage and connect across socio-economic divides and so to better understand how to get along and interact with those around them.
For all that wonderful, generous heartspace, the physical training involved in preparing Zip Zap performers for the stage is a hugely important component of the programme. Each of the troupe’s 10 member is lean, fit and incredibly strong and agile, with none of the bulkiness of a pure gym fanatic and all of the tightly-wound energy of a top athlete.
Such conditioning is necessary as, from the moment the show begins, the cast rely on each other to be in the correct spots to catch and lift each other, with precise choreography requiring timing, movement and the interlocking of hands and arms and bodies to ensure that the outcomes are as safe as they are visually appealing.
Over the course of the show, each of the cast members gets to showcase their own specialty act – acrobatics, juggling, trapeze or rope work, unicycle riding, spinning maniacally in a Cyr wheel and more – with the complexity of these routines being what marks this company as a powerful touring entity rather than “only” a successful project for improving the lives of the young men and women who join its ranks. There are other nuances too – ways of lifting colleagues or refined movement techniques, for instance, that could practically be done in other ways but which show off both more practised skill and sheer power when done in the way they are here.
The more traditional circus elements of the show are connected by dance, song and spoken word passages, giving the production a wider artistic reach and likely introducing some audience members to the craft involved in those skills. These features also allow for the inclusion of story threads celebrating South African culture, including gumboot and pantsula dancing and song lyrics detailing experiences the performers have gone through.
All Moya’s parts – athleticism, artistry, movement, music, strength, grace and more – work well in isolation. The intelligent and sensitive way they are combined means the show thrills, amuses and entertains throughout – and does so in a completely family-friendly way.