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Fringe review: Chasing Smoke

Adelaide Fringe

In a circus show that is both entertainment and social critique, Chasing Smoke sees a new generation of performers with an infectious sense of playfulness and humour explore what it means to be an Indigenous Australian. ★★★★

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Presented by Brisbane based Casus Circus and performed by an all-Indigenous ensemble, Chasing Smoke tackles racism, cultural identity, loss of land and family trauma with evocative storytelling and acrobatics.

The show bounces from high-energy fun to solemn moments of introspection in a way that never feels jarring.

The young ensemble comprises Lara Croydon, Ally Humphris, Harley Mann, Jack Sheppard, Dylan Singh and Pearl Tia Thompson. As Casus Circus co-founder and director of Chasing Smoke, Natano Fa’anana, explains, they “pull no punches in sharing their intimate personal stories, each offering a unique stance on what it is like to be at the pinnacle of the world’s oldest living culture”.

Chasing Smoke skilfully navigates an unexpected breadth of tone — from the story of Humphris’s great-grandmother, an Indigenous woman arrested for her relationship with a white man, to a hilarious Country Cooking segment from Croydon, where the baking of a chocolate cake offers a cutting analogy for Australia’s white assimilation policies.

You never know what will come next, whether you’ll be laughing along or reminded of Australia’s horrifying history of colonisation and continued oppression.

Of course, audiences can expect traditional circus tricks, with one of the highlights being an entrancing corde lisse (aerial rope) routine by Mann. The First Nations group also draws on traditional Indigenous dance and symbols, from a wooden coolamon used in a moving juggling act to artful shapes created with sand beneath an aerial act.

A cleverly leveraged soundtrack leans heavily on contemporary Indigenous music and voiceovers cut through fast-paced energy to share the performers’ own stories of culture, identity and belonging.

Chasing Smoke is not flawless – juggling balls are dropped, choreography sometimes falls out of sync – but the young ensemble demonstrates real talent in acrobatics, performance and storytelling in this Green Room Award-winning show.

Chasing Smoke will be showing on Kaurna land at Gluttony until March 3. Casus Circus is also presenting two other shows at Adelaide Fringe: DNA and You & I. Read InDaily’s interview with director Natano Fa’anana here.

See more Adelaide Fringe reviews and stories here.

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