Imagine you and everyone you love is sitting around a campfire. Somewhere close, or in the distance, waves are kissing the shore. The air is still except for a breeze that tickles your skin every so often. The sky is the darkest blue you’ve ever seen. You have that feeling in your chest when you know you’re tired but you just want to stay awake forever so you don’t miss anything. This is what it felt like watching Ru’s haunting and unforgettable Fringe World musical performance, Cercle.
On the underground floor of WA’s State Theatre Centre, in a room dubbed the “Engine Room”, is a minimalist set-up. There is no stage; instead there are three rings of circles. In the first ring is an artificial campfire that acts as the main source of light throughout the show. The second, four microphones standing around the fire, and the third is the audience sitting on seats that encompass the performance. For the entirety of the hour-long production, the audience is blanketed in a darkness that, when combined with the melodies of Ru, gives us the opportunity to let our imaginations run free and our hearts yearn for something familiarly unfamiliar. Joining Ru (Zal Kanga-Parabia) in Cercle were singers Laura Strobech, Annika Moses, and Wayan Dana on the double bass. Together they created an experience that embodied warmth and nostalgia. With Dana’s double bass strings reverberating deep in your heart, Strobech and Moses’ clean and crisp vocals, paired with Ru’s soft yet fiercely emotional voice and lyrics, what emerged were a series of lullabies for life.
Before each song, Ru gives a brief history to the song’s genesis, and we quickly learn that every song is a glimpse into who Ru is and the people and moments who were intrinsic in his becoming. From the song “Little Hands” to “Miss You” to “Sky’s Alive With Stars”, his mother, father, friends and lovers all made an appearance, which is to say: you cannot be who you are without other people. In the core of his music, nature also finds its home. With “Woods”, I found myself dreaming of running barefoot through the forest, and “Song For” reminded me of a river flowing into an ocean of feeling. Inspired by his travels, Ru inserts the places he’s been into his songs effortlessly and with talent, that the audience can simply close their eyes and be transported into that moment and place. He turns cities that are foreign into something recognisable, and what is felt can only be described as a soft euphoria.
It’s hard to describe the songs separately as together they are an exploration, a journey through the human condition. Ru takes you through every aspect of what it means to be human, and then replaces fear with hope. With his music, Ru spills his humble heart into your palms and says, “Take care of it,” and you do your best to. Perhaps to pick it apart will not do Cercle justice. After the show, I was asked, “How was it?” by family and friends, and all I could say were a combination of synonyms for ‘exquisite’. Now, what I wished I said was: I wish I had a photographic memory so I could relive that experience again and again and again.