Australia's only Indigenous contemporary circus ensemble is one of three touring casts from Cacus Circus out of Brisbane, which is best known for acclaimed shows Knee Deep and Driftwood. In Chasing Smoke, five emerging artists search for identity amidst more than sixty-thousand years of cultural history, and their own personal stories.

Opening with "Welcome to Aborigine World", a satirical look at ignorant mid Century non-Indigenous perspectives in Australia, you know this is going to be an interesting show.

It was particularly interesting to watch the crowd. The show is clearly pitched at people who still need to hear the message that "black, brown or beige, we are all Aboriginal and proud." A vitally important message, no doubt. But when you blend that with tongue-in-cheek blak humour that has some assumed knowledge (or at least a degree of comfort), well, it makes for some weird vibes in the room. People weren’t 100% sure if they should laugh or not.

photo credit Mik Lavage

The performers maintained perfectly oblivious clowning facials throughout, adding to the humour for those who were feeling it. It’s a funny show. But the real power of it is when the humour fades and the performers share their poignant personal stories.

There’s a killer soundtrack, contrasting the respective progress of the Australian and American civil rights movements. I’d never heard the painfully racist lyrics to "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" before. They finished on a high note, with some choice Electric Fields and Baker Boy selections. Some of the best moments were the group choreographies cleverly blending acrobatics with contemporary Indigenous and western dance. A bird-flipping dance off was a particular highlight.

★★★

Chasing Smoke is showing at Gluttony until the 3rd March. Tickets are available here.