Underbelly, Bristo Square

WHEN Circa invites you to go Beyond, you should jump at the chance - though in terms of leaping, you won't come within a bunny-hop of how far and how high these Aussie circus buffs can go. Especially when the springboard for action is director Yaron Lifschitz's imagination. He's been thinking Darwin and Alice in Wonderland and Rilke.

The seven performers have translated those curious impulses into feats of physical prowess that are shockingly bold, intriguingly bizarre and often very funny.

That's not because of the floppy bunny heads they sport at odd moments, though the incongruity never loses its humour. It's to do with how all seven are inspired to let the inner animal loose occasionally, even as the poetic intensity of Beyond - and it has achingly poetic imagery woven into the balancing acts, the Chinese Pole-work and the soundscore - is all to do with our shared humanity.

A lot of what Beyond offers catches up with you later: are those hybrid masses of interlocking limbs - usually supported by an unfazed Rowan Heydon-White - a Darwinian hint of evolving life-forms? You can puzzle over the thematic threads or just sit back and revel in such joys as Heydon-White completing a Rubic's Cube, regardless of acrobatic onslaughts by her compadres, or Skip Walker-Milne's furry bear antics on the Chinese Pole while deciding that Rudi Mineur's body-pinging with elastic bands is just another Circa gambit you won't ever try at home.

Mind you, few other circus companies world-wide can match their exploits either.

Pants Down Circus - Rock

Assembly George Square Gardens

JUST when you're thinking the stage in the Speigeltent Palazzo isn't big enough to swing a cat, on come the four performers who combine as Melbourne's Pants Down Circus, and they start swinging one another every which way in a burst of rockin' acrobatics.

There's heavy metal blasting from the sound system, there's heavy metal influences in the costuming but there's a light-hearted willingness to send themselves up when the rock-dude swaggering looks like taking over. Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody gets the spoof treatment, but the skills involved in the duo-swinging-trapeze work are no laughing matter, nor is the brinkmanship involved in using the German Wheel on an area where turns are tighter than Hannah Cryle's glam-glitter costume.

With the audience up close, there's no room for error when it comes to using a ladder as high rise stilts, or playing throw and catch with flying bodies. Even without the music, this rocks within its limitations.

Pss Pss

Zoo Southside

IT'S a real deal circus. You get juggling, acrobatics, trapeze work, clowning. But the most breath-taking trick of all is that the whole kaboodle is accomplished quite brilliantly by just two people, Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari, who perform as Baccala Clown.

She arrives first, a doll-like zany in colourful raggle-taggle layers. When he appears, there's a hint of Chaplin in the chalk-stripe trousers, braces, little hat. Side by side, they're the stuff of oddball humour.

A tempting cake box divulges - an apple. There's some comedy grab'n'grab-back clowning between them that, in the toss of a single fruit, leads into a juggling routine that is skilfully silly and ridiculously competitive.

And so it goes. The clowning sets up hilarious possibilities of mishap and mayhem - but in the midst of it going awry, she really does balance on his head in a series of impressive acrobatics before descending into goofiness again.

A trapeze and a ladder afford more opportunities for ingenious foolery - but don't be fooled. This couple of clowns have a wealth of tumbling, balancing and flying expertise at their fingertips - and they totally understand when it is time to let go (oops! and tee-hee-hee).