Zwai, part of Fringe World’s impressive array of circus productions, is one of the festival’s stand out events on the calendar. E1NZ, composed by performers Esther and Jonas Slanzi, bring their extraordinary new show to Perth audiences for the next few nights.
On a sweltering Sunday night, the Big Top was a hefty buzz with anticipation over one of the festival’s most-anticipated circus experiences. As the lights dimmed, both performers immediately embodied their characters. The two characters duel over freedom of expression, fighting on another to escape their limited surroundings.
The narrative is essential to Zwai’s emotional, physical, and sensory auras. It is relatively simple, with two characters feuding endlessly over space. The plot, like circus performance itself, focuses on how multiple beings come together – finding literal and figuratively stability within unique environments. From the blissful opening sequence, the performance whisked the audience away into a kitsch world.
With the setting based around only a handful of props/tools, along with fewer lighting and soundtrack changes, Zwai involves a less-is-more approach. The show relies on the performer’s abilities throughout the highest highs and subdued character moments. Kicking off the show, Esther pulls off a flawless rope routine via the trapeze-like pulley system set-up. Swinging towards the crowd, her first number immediately impressed the all-ages, fan-waving crowd.
The story is made whole by peculiar, interesting character moments and an overt sense of humour. Both characters have varying ticks, continually moving green, glass bottles, heavy, wooden table, and drawers around the stage. To each other’s despair, both characters illuminate their desires for the room. Esther held on tightly as Jonas pushed and pulled the table, on all angles, across the venue. Their expressive, silent performances cement the pillars of circus performance – style and substance.
The performers’ grace and agility were simply awe-inspiring, highlighted by Jonas balancing a red ball on each part of his body throughout an intensifying 10-minute stretch. The pair’s chemistry and dynamic, coupled with a whimsical score, raised the light-hearted, gleeful tone. The floor routine, including Jonas lifting and flipping Esther (keeping a diabolo in motion), fluttered along with jaw-dropping rhythm. Juggling bottles between one another, their synchronicity and reflexes are superhuman.
The big, brash moments of Zwai further wowed and stunned the audience. Esther launched into the air, performing a vertigo inducing, dizzying single-rope routine. Tying a knot, and adding weight, to the table, her core strength helped pull the mass straight upwards. Supported by Jonas and the table’s immense weight, Esther’s swing routine made palms sweat.
The show’s climactic routines were worth the price of admission several times over. Jonas took multi-tasking to the next level – balancing the ball on his face whilst pulling himself several meters off the ground. His diabolo routine was the show’s standout act, showcasing his immense concentration and fluidity across the stage. His exhaustion caught up with him, losing balance multiple times during the final routine.
Esther and Jonas received a standing ovation as Zwai came to a blistering close. The show is one of this festival’s most refined and extravagant circus productions. Get in quick!
Photo credit: E1NZ