Inertia | Vulcana Women’s Circus

Inertia: ɪˈnəːʃə/



    the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion; this includes changes to its speed, direction or state of rest


    the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at constant velocity


    a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.



Over the last few years, Vulcana Women’s Circus has developed a number of programs to support emerging circus artists as they begin their careers. Inertia is a brave new work that features ten young women acrobats in a visceral exploration of modern society and our culture of constant online connection.

Bianca Mackail is one of Brisbane’s most coveted award-winning circus performers. Over the last few years, she has been developing her skills as a director. Working in partnership with Vulcana’s renowned Artistic Director, Celia White, they have fused together a rich performance utilising the strengths of a new ensemble of ten. Throughout her career, Celia has produced strong works that deal with deep feminist dialogues, and reflect on the present lived-experience of women in contemporary society. Bianca’s own work is both physically consummate and deeply infused with human connection and contemporary observation; in this piece we get a strong sense of her personal style and vision.This combination of two women’s skill and vision has resulted in a work that contains a great depth of mental nourishment and stimulation.

Out of these ten emerging artists, comes forth a work of art that is strong, moody and full of modern-life commentary. It commences with a soundtrack that is heavily distorted and mechanical. The full cast enters and is seated across the stage; each is playing on a phone that lights their faces with a cold white glow. They play with the phones, then push them away, but are irrevocably drawn back to them.

And so begins an otherworldly exploration of media and self, of the watched and the watcher; a pertinent work for these days of constant media connection.

This is not a narrative-driven piece. It appeared to me like a set of vignettes, each with its own intention, like a rip-tide moving under the surface. From each scene is a new perspective on the ubiquitousness of media. At times, all the performers pout and pose for their own photographs, at others they violently vie for the spotlight. A silent crowd watches someone struggle; one records. Another scene uses voices spoken in unison to add punch to a strangely gentle story about change-making. Jaunty tunes and light-hearted moments catalyst ripples of laughter; without diminishing the subtext of electronic coercion.

The women are strong and sure and fast. They tumble and roll at lightning-fast speed. There are a lot of curious and interesting group acro-balances, feet placed upon chests and backs, and they utilise the full ensemble to catch and throw and climb to the heavens.  The performers are comfortable and intimate with each other, and claim the space with confidence.

Some of the early scenes seemed to linger just a touch too long, but as the piece develops, so does the tempo.  Much as the name suggests, once the energy has been set in motion, it becomes inevitable to stay the course. There is violence, hunger and fragility, always juxtaposed against that relentless self-absorption. Some moments were particularly memorable; a fight between two women has a palpable menace; another walks precariously upon fragile glass, and at the last the ensemble momentously pulls a giant truss from the sky.

A meaty offering, full of food for thought, without ever being obtuse. There is no spoon-feeding here. All of us live in the modern world depicted; we are careless with technology, yet aware of its influence.

There is no overt commentary. It lets us reflect for ourselves. It make no firm judgement on the culture of recording every moment of our lives; it hints, rather than points. Nonetheless, at all moments, there is the silent watcher, eyes glued to screen, watching our downfall, glory, distress, joy…






Inertia is presented as part of Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland Festival 2016. It is still showing until Sunday December 4th.


Congratulations to this new cast, who will no doubt populate our stages and companies in the years to come.


Performers: Eliza Gawne, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Leanne Smith, Madeleine Grant, Maite Miramontes, Regan Henry, Sally Walker, Shannon Stuart, Sonja Matthews, Yonna Simon

Co-directors: Bianca Mackail and Celia White

Lighting design /operation: Dan Endicott

Sound operator and stage manager: Abbey Church

Assistant stage manager: Georgia Bale


Image: Jen Daimer

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