Kimberley O’Brien, performer, CIRCA
I feel Humans really shows us peeling back the physical and emotional layers of ourselves on stage ...
There are a myriad of explanations about what is means to be human, but everyone’s conscious experience differs so vastly that it can be hard to pin down the unifying elements. CIRCA’s Humans is a contemporary circus performance that looks to decipher what it means to be human – examining how our bodies can help convey our aspirations and connections through movement. Kimberley O’Brien is one of ten performers who will be pushing their bodies to the limit for the show, testing the limits of her strength and endurance to properly convey our burdens and the emotional and physical strength needed to overcome them. Ahead of Circa’s performance of Humans at QPAC, we asked Kimberley some questions about her love of circus, and how she thinks these physical feats relate to our humanity.
We hear you already had a passion for athletics before encountering CIRCA, but we’d love to know what it was about the ensemble’s work that enticed you to sign up?
I joined because I wanted something a bit different, and it looked super cool from the brochure that my mum found. I started with a circus basics class, which including tumbling, acrobatics and aerials – that sort of stuff. I originally didn’t know that there was an ensemble to join. In 2009 I saw the self-titled show CIRCA, realised it was amazing, and that it was an art form that I wanted to be a part of.
What were the key things you learned over your two years of training as part of CIRCA’s youth performance troupe?
When I first started I had zero knowledge of circus, so I first had to build a foundation of both solo and group skills. Eventually once I had progressed to Circa Zoo – the youth ensemble – I was able to start honing my performance skills. One of the great things I experienced was being surrounded by young people with a similar passion for the art form.
Humans looks at just what it means to be human, and every member of the performance team puts their bodies through extreme feats of athleticism to communicate this. What does the production reveal about our physical limitations and strengths?
That our bodies can do all these amazing things and yet there are some things that even the circa ensemble can’t do!
On the flip side, how does the show connect our physical abilities with other aspects of our humanity?
During the shows creation and in each performance we are striving to find the genuine connections between us as performers as well as humans. We are constantly moving and trying to portray the natural need for human contact and self expression, and the constant battle between order and disorder.
The entire ensemble prides itself on pushing its limits, but what did the training for this production reveal to you about your own capabilities?
For the last year before Humans I have been performing in smaller groups, so coming back into this large group was a challenge for me. It’s a different sort of performing with ten people on stage compared to three or four.
For long-time fans of CIRCA productions, what would you say is the biggest difference between this production and others you’ve participated in?
I feel Humans really shows us peeling back the physical and emotional layers of ourselves on stage. Being able to have all ten of us do that at once is really powerful. We are able to use this show to joyfully celebrate the physical capabilities of humans, and with ten unique bodies and personalities, there are a bunch of new skills that we get to showcase.
For you, what is the biggest joy of being a part of an ensemble like CIRCA?
Being with CIRCA is like having a second family. We travel long hours, rehearse and perform together basically all year round. I am lucky to be surrounded by passionate people both on and off stage that are working around the clock to bring these shows to life.
What inspires and influences you in your daily life?
Scouring the internet for new skills and styles to infuse into my work. Also my husband Daniel, who is also in the ensemble.
Finally, what are some words of wisdom that you live by?
Life takes us to unexpected places sometimes. The future is never set in stone, remember that.
Image courtesy of Jessica Connell.