Is the bendy birthday-girl (Kathryn O’Keeffe) who opens Circa’s Wolfgang being visited by Mozart’s ghost, or is the hourlong show, rather, an imaginative fight of fantasy, sparked by the Mozart “best of” record that she receives for her birthday? Also, what’s the accordionist in the golden-winged lame jumpsuit doing there? Playing the accordion. Ok, yes, but beyond that, his onstage role is ill-defined. He seems almost to have stepped in from another show and be making the best of it, quite at odds with the others, yet lurks affably enough.
Mozart, as rendered by Paul O’Keeffe, is as engaging as he is unlikely. In making the character accessible to children, Circa go all-out and made a man-child: playful in the highest, immature to the point of tantrums and butt-sniffing. Mozart as you’ve never seen him before, then. Certainly, there is no attempt to depict the man who said “one must not make oneself cheap” and held that “death is the key which unlocks the door to our greatest happiness”, although that wouldn’t have been nearly so family-friendly, entertaining, or straight-forward to communicate through acrobatics. Instead we get a Mozart who loves doing bike tricks in his pants, and is woefully incapable of keeping track of his baton.
Our birthday girl, too, is confused about Wolfgang: she wants to fight him then can’t bear it when he’s out of her sight. She spurns his advances then revels in his attention. She delights in his failure then entreats him to jump up and down on her body! The girl is all over the place, metaphorically, but also, gladly, literally. The O’Keeffes use the stage wonderfully, the dance sequences are fantastic, really immersive. The slapstick here is genuinely funny, amazingly executed, and worked into the dance to generate a constant undulating playfulness. Kathryn O’Keeffe is also a skilled contortionist, eliciting the sort of groans and gasps that an audience makes when it is not sure whether to cheer or puke (not for the squeamish). Between them, this amazing acrobatic couple brings us more feats of gymnastics, acrobatics and balance than you can shake a baton at (and there is perhaps too much baton-based banter).
Then again, they can’t be doing backflips off each other’s shoulders every single second, and if some of this inbetweeny filler stuff was a bit meh, there are tricks here that even circus will not have seen the like of. The synchronicity and trust between these two incredible acrobats produces gobsmacking results. If Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s actual ghost should haunt the Circus Hub this year, he wouldn’t recognise himself, but he would recognise the score. In that sense, perhaps, Circa: Wolfgang *is* a good introduction to Mozart for Children. Either way, they are bound to have fun.