Review: Spanish Baroque


Photography by Steven Godbee.

Photography by Steven Godbee.

Growing up, my mother worked in the arts and as a result I was fortunate enough to always see a lot of live performances from a very young age. But it acted like a bit of a double edge sword, on one hand I got to immerse myself in a variety of art forms as a child and teenager, on the other hand I developed a pretty analytical view of most art forms where I would find myself critiquing a performance rather than engaging with it. 

The Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa’s Spanish Baroque performance at QPAC however, was a definite exception to this rule. I entered the theatre with a critical eye and couldn’t help but be quickly swept up the energy of the performance. 

Circa and the Brandenburg moved as one, perfectly complementing each other to create a truly immersive sense of time and place. The interaction between performers was nuanced, seemingly effortless and included moments of welcomed humour and playfulness. 

The influence from contemporary dance was in abundance throughout Circa’s performance with subtle and intricately interwoven motif. Their performance moved beyond feats of human strength, flexibility and balance, and instead presented movement as expression. 

Exhibiting strength and agility, Conor Neall was captivating on the Chinese Pole, while later in the show Caroline Baillon on the ropes created a sense of chaos, suspense and purposeful entanglement. 

Standing out with elegance, fluidity and unrivalled performance quality was Billie Wilson-Coffey whose silk performance was nothing short of hypnotic. Spiralling down from the ceiling, her body and the silks intertwining, Billie exuded a truly breathtaking movement language, which had the audience looking on in awe. 

Despite Circa’s impressive visual display, the strength, professionalism and quality of the Brandenburg was in no way overshadowed. I found myself at times caught up, not only with auditory treat presented but also with their enthusiasm and visual performance quality. It was so easy to become transfixed at the sight with Paul Dyer’s fingers running fleetingly across the harpsicord, that at times I was snapped back to reality by the audience applauding. 

From the sharpness and precision of the strings in pizzicato sections to the delicacy of the baroque guitar, the music was technically flawless and emotionally complex.  Encompassing pieces that ranged from jovial to beautifully haunting and back again the Brandenburg’s performance was a fully engaging experience. 

Interludes by Stephano Maiorana on the baroque guitar offered moments of quiet reflection in a performance that otherwise teetered on the edge of sensory overload, in the most enjoyable way possible. 

Finally, soprano Natasha Wilson added strength and an almost ethereal quality to the performance, vocally complementing the intricacies of the Brandenburg while physically engaging with Circa’s movements. 

Overall, the performance was enthralling, technically masterful and almost impossible to watch through a critical lens.