Arts Review

Duck Pond

Creator, Director and Stage Design by Yaron Lifschitz


Dr Gemma Regan


Circa’s Athletically Astounding Duck Pond Is No Ugly Duckling!

One, then two people climbed onto and were held by the leotarded Georgia Webb and the audience cheered. But then a third and even a fourth Circa performer mounted the pile, each was balancing on Webb as if they didn’t want to get their feet wet. She even smiled as her strong legs shook violently from supporting the four muscular acrobats high in the air, the equivalent weight of a polar bear or even a grand piano and the crowd went wild!


The circus-inspired Circa team opened this week with the World Premiere of Duck Pond, a brand new twist on the iconic ballet of Swan Lake and Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling. It combines quirky music and incredible acrobatic stunts and feats of strength to make your jaw drop to the ground. By the time you scrape it back up, it will have plummeted open again and drooling in shock after the countless incredible feats displayed by the ten performers of Circa.


The quirky Duck Pond show is the brainchild of Yaron Lifschitz who “wanted to make something beautiful, funny, sophisticated and accessible; a kind of mythical unicorn that reaches across ages and artistic preferences.” She chose an alternative interpretation of Swan Lake because of the glaring dichotomies between good and evil and black and white and also fancied the tutus!  


Duck Pond has it all, described by Lifschitz as “a fantastical circus mash-up bringing together the worlds of ballet, circus, film and theatre for an acrobatic spectacular”. 


The stage setting is simple, with a shiny floor and long stripped curtains harkening back from the 1970s. Throw in a few mops, a sweeping brush, a giant ring and a few strips of material and you have a show! That’s all it took, along with ten incredibly talented acrobatic performers and a creative backstage crew, to enthral and entertain a packed house for over 90 minutes. 


The show is divided into three distinct Acts and a Prologue. At the palace, the Ugly Duckling (Sophie Seccombe), in a grey leotard, meets the Prince (Zachery Stevens) amidst a flurry of feathers, but the Black Swan (Kimberley Rossi) is also a contender for the heart of the Prince. A looped film of a swan fight filmed by Carl Bovis combined with the Ugly Duckling and the Black Swan added to the primal essence of the dance when vying for a mate.


The lake scene includes a Circa version of the iconic swan scene with tumbles, gliding and amazing acrobatics on long blue silks. When the Ugly Duckling takes flight under the power of the others, she appears to defy gravity in a spectacular swan-dive, flying across the stage! 


As the scene closed, the audience leapt to their feet in applause, but it was another quirky turn of the Circa crew that there was another whole Act when the stage is laid bare by the performers packing up. They gradually reveal the bare bones of the stage and themselves with a bit of Circa magic.


The music and audio by Jethro Woodward are emotive, drawing the audience into the intrigue of silent acrobatic dance through clever soundscape musical commentary. The eccentric costumes of Libby McDonnell are equally clever, with the clown-like ducks in yellow flippers being particularly comical.


The choreography by Rani Luther (a TAB alumnus) and the Circa team was exceptional, with intricate combinations of the ten performers combining classical ballet with acrobatic tumbles and slapstick. The ingenious use of props was fascinating, converting a long-handled brush into a parallel bar for acrobatic moves. Alexander Berlage’s lighting skills were simple, yet effective, especially with the blues of the Lake Scene in Act Two.


The astounding finale had Webb rolling around like a spinning penny within a hoop. Her balance and strength seemed to contradict the laws of physics as she gyrated and revolved with her body changing to different faces on a coin. As the curtain closed, the packed audience leapt to their feet cheering and whistling.

Circa’s quirky Duck Pond was athletically astounding and enthralling. It was the best of their fantastic productions yet and is certainly no Ugly Duckling with an entertaining physical display of superhuman strength and skills!


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