Review: THE RETURN (Il Ritorno)

by Lynn on May 4, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Creators: Yaron Lifschitz with Quincy Grant and the Circa Ensemble
Directed by Yaron Lifschitz
Stage design by
Lighting by Jason Organ
Costumes by Libby McDonnell
Composition, musical direction and arrangements by Quincy Grant
Acrobats: Nathan Boyle
Marty Evans
Nicole Faubert
Bridie Hooper
Todd Kilby
Nathan Knowles
Celia Martin

Opera singers:
Kate Howden
Benedict Nelson

A moving retelling of Ulysses returning home from the Trojan war told through circus techniques and acrobatics that could very well be taken for ballet. Loss, war and longing are illuminated.

Circa creator Yaron Lifschitz loves the classics of antiquity; circus and opera. He combines all three in The Return (Il Ritorno). From the program:

“A powerful physical poem of absence and separation, The
Return Is structured and inspired by the Monteverdi
baroque opera Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria,
which is in-turn based on Homer’s Greek
epic The Odyssey. Within the legend, the King
Ulisse of Ithaca, thought to be dead, makes the long
journey home after the Trojan War. He finds that a trio
of suitors are pursuing his faithful queen, Penelope,
relentlessly. Once he vanquishes them, he proves he has
survived the war, and is reunited with her. At the core
of this show is the hunger to return home-saturated with
loss and war, powered by longing and haunted by the

A raised platform is stage left on which the four-piece ensemble play the music and the two singers approach the microphone when they are scheduled to sing.

The ensemble of acrobats are sombre, slow moving and graceful. They ‘bend’ in the air. A strapping man bends a leg and somehow does a flip effortlessly. While the moves incorporate the balancing of bodies on shoulders, by hands in the air, on ropes and on a trapeze etc. the story of Ulysses trying to get home is referenced and clear.

At the end, Penelope seems as if she is frantically being pulled and shaken by some unseen force, I’m thinking a determined suitor. But then as Ulysses tries to calm her, her behaviour takes on another possibility: that Penelope has been driven a bit unbalanced by waiting for Ulysses to return and the aggressive insistence from three suitors that she pick the winner.

The Return (Il Ritorno) is a wonderfully strong ending to eclectic programming of the Spotlight Australia series that has played at both the Bluma Appel Theatre and the Berkeley Street Theatres. See this before it leaves May 7.

A Circa Production presented by Canadian Stage.

Opened: May 3, 2017.
Closes: May 7, 2017.
Cast: 7; 4 men, 3 women

Singers: a man and a woman

Running Time: 75 minutes.

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