The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

Animal magic

This thrilling circus escapade imagines creatures with feathers, fur and fins in whimsical tales that will delight audiences young and old

- Story PHIL BROWN Carnival of the Animals by Circa, December 16 to 20, Playhouse, QPAC; qpac.com.au

troupe, after an interlude with Cirque du Soleil (an interlude that the pandemic put an end to) wasn’t in the original cast but has done the show many times since on several continents and says having family audiences is a plus.

“When we perform it the house lights don’t fully go down,” Boyle says. “That means you can see the audience and are more aware of them. With kids in the audience you can even hear what they say and they are usually very honest.”

Usually the show involves some forays into that audience but with COVID restrictio­ns that may not happen this time.

It may be a fun and heartwarmi­ng piece with music that evokes various creatures but it is no less strenuous, Boyle says.

“It’s one of the most cardio based shows we have ever done,” he says. “You are constantly running. You step off stage and then 10 seconds later you are back on.”

There is some skipping too as one of the 14 movements of the piece is entitled Kangourous (Kangaroos) an exotic animal to the Frenchman who composed the work in 1886 as respite from a concert tour of Germany that didn’t go as well as expected.

It was written as a diversion and wasn’t widely known until after the death of Saint-Saens and it has since become one of his best known compositio­ns ever popular with music teachers and young children.

Circa’s version captivates with whimsical tales of creatures of land and sea portrayed by Circa’s world-famous acrobats who fly, tumble, leap and spin through the many wondrous worlds of the animal kingdom. One of the signature pieces is The Swan suite, which is perhaps the most beautiful segment.

The show’s creator, Circa’s artistic director Yaron Lifschitz worked closely with Adelaide-based sound designer and composer Quincy Grant to bring it to the stage and Grant has added new music.

The show features projection­s and costumes designed by Libby McDonnell.

Lifschitz says it is “one of the most theatrical works in our repertoire at the moment”. “QPAC wanted something for the holidays that families would enjoy,” he says. “It’s easy to watch and it can take you to new places.”

But it’s not just frivolous fluff. The music is impressive and iconic and Lifschitz says it helps children develop “cultural muscles”. Maybe adults too?

We were travelling to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains by train some years ago and I got rather excited when we approached a certain railway tunnel. This was no ordinary tunnel mind you, it was the famous Lapstone Tunnel featured in one of my favourite Australian paintings … Fire’s on, by Arthur Streeton, Australia’s most iconic impression­ist. This painting is considered his greatest evocation of the country’s heat and sunlight. Painted a year after the artist left Melbourne for Sydney, it is an example of a radical new type of landscape in his oeuvre. Its vertical compositio­n and the high horizon line bring focus to the steep terrain with precarious rocks and dead tree trunks.

The painting captures a critical moment during the constructi­on of the railway line across the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney – the death of a railway worker in an explosion. “Fire’s on” was what they used to shout before blasting.

It’s a wonderful painting and it rightly gets a whole page in a stunning new book about Streeton that has just been published in conjunctio­n with the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) which is currently holding a major exhibition of his work. Streeton is on in Sydney until February 14 and I hope to get to there in time to catch it.

If not, at least I have the book Streeton, edited by Wayne Tunnicliff­e (Thames & Hudson, $70) to pore over this summer.

I was going to suggest you go over to the Queensland Art Gallery to marvel over our own Streetons in the meantime but it turns out that we have actually lent the best of them to the AGNSW and when I last spoke to QAGOMA they hadn’t put any other Streetons up in their place which is something I hope may be remedied soon.

After all he is one of our most important artists and we do have a lovely suite of 20 Streetons. The ones we have let the AGNSW borrow are Tulips; June evening, Box Hill; The road up the hill, and St Mark’s, Venice. All gorgeous pieces.

The fact that they wanted them for this exhibition is a compliment and shows how important our own Streetons are. If you want to see the full range of what we own check the QAGOMA website.

A few of them are in the book too and what a magnificen­t book it is. This richly illustrate­d tome features 275 works including his much loved Australian paintings as well as works from Streeton’s internatio­nal career painting in Egypt, Venice, England, Italy and the battlefiel­ds of First World War France. Streeton was a war artist among other things.

Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) remains one of the most enduring and popular painters in Australian art. Everyone loves Streeton. My late mum had a poster of one of his most-loved works on the wall in her spare room, which we stayed in regularly. So I would wake, look up and there would be the magnificen­t 1896 work The purple noon’s transparen­t might. It’s one of his classics and my mum loved it as do millions of other Australian­s. That one resides in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Another cracker is his 1890 work Still glides the stream and shall for ever glide, and we have a lovely little sketch towards that major work in our QAGOMA collection. So can we have it out on display? Pretty please.

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