AdlFringe Review: The Candy Butchers

by Jane

The Candy Butchers photo Jeff Busby

When we walk into the big top, our fingers slightly sticky, we’re already there with the world of the circus. Big Top, hanging trapeze, red curtains, sugar overload: we know the circus. We know what we’re going to expect.

The trouble, though, is The Candy Butchers professes to be a dark circus, something off the beaten track, not your ordinary circus show. It plays so easily into traditional circus, though, attempts to be something different are never truly realised.

The non-narrative work takes four loosely drawn characters for four performers and gives us traditional circus acts: there is the clowning, the trapeze, the hula-hoops, and the tests of strength through handstand. Perhaps most crucially, the work fails in truly being a dark production by how much the performers are joyous in their roles, and how much the social construct of applauding for physical feats and trickery still stands in the show.

The mere act of placing the work in a traditional circus space, creates a traditional performer-audience interaction, and with this constant celebration of their work it is hard to be drawn into places of darkness. These issues are exacerbated by the playing space being bordered by a line of suitcases several meters from the front row of the audience – and much of the action taking place several meters behind that – meaning the small cast of four struggles to traverse the gap.

The resulting show is one that is uneven, but with moments of clarity in its vision, particularly in Derek Ives’ clowning scenes and in DJ Garner’s act with a straight jacket. The moments of strength, too, outnumber the moments of weakness, but the presence of these strong moments only highlight the discrepancy.

Towards the final quarter of the production, the show starts to seriously lull. The cast bring it back with several heart-jumpy moments – which is much of the reason we go to see a Big Top show – and the final moments, for me, made the work worth it. In a piece of surrealist beauty, three of the cast-members slowly spun, suspended from the ceiling, as the fourth walked in on a large ball. The world of the show slowed down, the outside noises of the Garden seemed to drop away, as one opened his umbrella and small sheets of silver rained down on him as he spun slowly on a bicycle five meters in the air.

Strut & Fret Production House presents The Candy Butchers, with DJ Garner, Derek Ives, Azaria Universe and Jess Love. At the Big Top, Garden of Unearthly Delights, for the Adelaide Fringe until March 17. More information and tickets. 

Photo by Jeff Busby.