Only three children’s hospices exist in Australia. Only one production in the Brisbane Festival children’s program is performed by children. And that is where the potency of We Live Here lies. An ensemble of five young people narrate the experiences of children with life-limiting conditions; an ensemble of young people advocate for those who have no time to sing their own praises.
It is believed that children and young people’s work serves merely as a stepping stone into more serious theatre. This Flipside Circus and Hummingbird House collaboration surely subverts this ideology. Addressing themes of resilience and life in the face of death, the young ensemble is given agency to tell the story they know intimately, the story of ‘just being a kid’.
And it is arresting to watch. Luke Whitefield’s palpable delight in the synchronised swimming sequence highlights the cheer that can be found in an ostensibly sad place. And while they do not have the finesse of more seasoned performers, the cast do possess the fresh authenticity that is lost in others with greater experience.
Circus can often feel like a catalogue of impressive skills. We Live Here sometimes feels like this. However, what sets the performance apart is the accompanying verbatim stories the choreography is performed to. Each trick is not merely an eisteddfod performance of showy talent, but a physical metaphor for the accompanying text. This is most memorably demonstrated by Amy Stuart on the clock-face treadmill of parental tasks. As each task is listed, members of the ensemble throw themselves toward Stuart. By the end of the sequence she stands centre stage, exhausted.
It is through the intensity of these physical tasks that we are reminded of the challenges others experience. It is through the intensity of these physical tasks that we understand their vigour and strength. It is through circus that we understand the audacious act of living.