The Naked, Human Clown

Recirquel, the Hungarian circus-theater-dance company, stages contemporary circus works for the entire family.

Recirquel (photo credit: LENA ZAPASSKY)
(photo credit: LENA ZAPASSKY)
Traditionally, the circus has always been a haven for misfits, outcasts and those who do not, for whatever reason, fit into normative society. And though Hungarian circus company Recirquel’s working environment is far fancier than a quickly erected tent on soft earth, its essence follows the long tradition laid out by circus ensembles in decades and centuries past.
Founded in 2012 by director, choreographer and performer Bence Vagi, Recirquel has taken the outliers of Hungarian society and placed them at its cultural epicenter. Through the company’s circus school, Vagi has successfully reached out to troubled youth from around the country, offering them a path into performance and away from less seemly options. Next month, Vagi will return to Israel with his signature piece, The Naked Clown, as part of the Herzliya Performing Arts Center’s season.
Operating out of the luxurious halls of MUPA Budapest (previously the Palace of Arts), Recirquel stages contemporary circus works for the entire family as well as concert circus performances. This meeting between an art form once reserved for outdoor consumption and a fine art’s palace has been made possible by two factors: Vagi’s entrepreneurial spirit and the Hungarian government’s acceptance of circus as a high art form. Whereas many arts’ councils are still grappling with how to categorize and cultivate circus, Hungary has folded it straight into the cultural elite, so much so that circus has grabbed a few slices of the budget pie, once reserved for other forms.
Recirquel (Credit: ORIT PNINI)Recirquel (Credit: ORIT PNINI)
Vagi, 37, can be credited with leading the charge of contemporary circus. Working throughout Europe and further afield, Vagi brings his dance training and knowledge of circus history to each and every production. His works are often referred to as “cirque dance,” as they do not exist solely in either genre. Vagi has worked with various types of circus companies, from stage to big top, animal-free to dens of lion-tamers. In his eyes, regardless of the venue or circumstances, circus is always after the same thing; connection with the audience and storytelling.
The Naked Clown, which has been performed to sold out crowds all over the world, follows the last moments of a life-long clown’s stage career. Facing the abyss of his performative afterlife, the clown slowly removes the costume pieces that always defined him, revealing the man underneath.
In this work, as in his other creations such as Paris de Nuit, Non Solus and My Land, Vagi explores ideas of identity, the essence of performance and interpersonal closeness. His movement vocabulary is drawn from circus arts as well as contemporary dance, as are his performers.
Circus lovers will be thrilled to see beloved elements such as a tightrope in The Naked Clown, masterfully navigated by a racket-wielding female performer. But there is also a narrative element of the show, which takes the audience on a journey beyond acrobatics and gravity defiance, straight into the heart of human existence.
The Naked Clown will be performed at the Herziliya Performing Arts Center on July 20-22. For more information, visit

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