The Defiant

The Defiant brings together world-class athletes, acrobats, and live rock music, in a bold contemporary circus that is an electrifying, fierce, rebellious exploration of strength through adversity.

Eight bodies emerge onto an apoplectic scene of a disused, torn down society. Together, the energy shifts: they incite a rebellion, unearthing the meaning of strength in adversity.

The Defiant is a fierce contemporary circus work, performed with a live soundtrack to deliver high impact visuals and sound, that will have audiences dancing in their seats. The audience will experience dynamic ensemble circus arts (featuring 7 acrobats and 1 live musician) weaved through an aesthetically dystopian world, where the ensemble explores themes of finding community and strength.

It is also quietly political, with challenges of gender normatives at its core. We want audiences to interrogate with us the roles into which femme-identifying circus artists are often placed, by featuring acts and stunt work usually performed by men. We want to increase the representation of women and gender-non-confirming performers in substantial roles, especially with a diversity of body types. These are goals we sought in all of our previous works as well, especially Rouge.

In terms of audience perceptions, we’ve often had audience members – particularly young women – approach post-show to say they were glad to see people on stage who are like themselves. We could see them leaving with a sense of hope, excitement, and maybe even a desire to try circus.

We think this is a fantastic way to build capacity in the Australian circus sector – by reflecting back to the audience what it could be.

Form and Style

The Defiant is a full-length (60-minute) work of contemporary circus arts, featuring fourteen acts, each backed by a live musical soundtrack (with both covers and original Australian music). The aesthetic is dystopian, the acts are high-energy with a mix of ensemble, duo, and solo performances, and the style is light-hearted and fierce. It can be presented with the audience on one side (proscenium configuration), or in a 3/4-round configuration.

The Defiant is a purposeful rejection of contemporary casting: with eight women and GNC artists performing roles and skills traditionally seen by men, this work is a visual unpacking of audiences’ binary expectations of ‘strength’. This bold world-building work has also been designed and developed by an all women and GNC Australian creative team, from its high-calibre production through tightly choreographed routines, stunt-work and aerials. This project is a voice for those who not only ‘overcome’ adversity, but rejoice in the fierceness, power, and humane joy of reclaiming space – and occupying it.

Community Engagement

As The Defiant requires a full-day bump-in, there is potential to organize community activities the day prior to the show, during the time in which performers are not required in the venue.

The Defiant is a newer work, so we are still refining our community engagement and audience outreach plans. We are trialing the following initiatives, and are open to suggestions from potential presenters, to link into any specific community interests or ongoing activities:

  • Hosting circus workshops, for a variety of ages and skill-levels. (For those new to circus, we can organise an introductory workshop. For communities with circus schools, we can potentially tailor a workshop to suit specific learning and performance outcomes).
  • Organising a post-show Q&A with performers, potentially even geared to a variety of learning interests. (Our cast are highly skilled in ensemble acrobatics, aerials, and music, and could speak to either the show in general, or to smaller interest groups. For example, we can organise a talk specifically for young women and GNC emerging artists, or connect with local chapters of Girls Rock Australia and speak to the live music elements of the show).
  • Visiting local dance, theatre, gymnastics groups, to chat about circus arts creation. While The Defiant is not designed specifically for young audiences, we recognise that there is a strong appeal to demographics in their mid-to-late teens, so we would be happy to connect to any young and emerging artists to chat about our creative process, as well as pathways to circus arts careers (as many of our performers come from diverse backgrounds in other artforms, or even athletics).
  • We are also about to create a teacher resource kit (with Australian curriculum connections) specific to the show, which will be designed for grades 7-12. If this would be a helpful resource to any prospective presenter, we are happy to talk about timelines for finishing and approving the document.

“The Defiant is a norm-defying, paradigm shifting circus” – All About Entertainment

“Never before has acrobatics, live music, and contemporary dance come together so perfectly […] The Defiant is a sensational show and a must-watch” – The University of Adelaide

“Grungy aesthetic, stark lighting and rock soundtrack balanced with an essence that exudes hope, camaraderie and celebration in relationships and community. […] The Defiant feels fresh and authentic – a polished, beautiful and engaging show.” – InDaily

Available Marketing Collateral

The Defiant is Highwire Entertainment’s newest and most ambitious show yet. It premiered at the Midsumma Festival in 2022, and went onto sold-out houses and stellar reviews at the 2022 and 2023 Adelaide Fringe Festivals.

We have the following marketing collateral available:

  • Professional posters and flyer artwork, including hero images;
  • A professional video trailer, including live audience reviews and post-show commentary;
  • Professionally filmed versions of live performing acts;
  • Photographs from a live performance;
  • A collection of stellar 4- and 5-star reviews, from both national and international publications;
  • A strong and growing collection of awards and nominations, including Best of Circus at the 2022 Adelaide Fringe;
  • An strong social media presence;
  • And sample media releases.



The presenting company, Highwire Entertainment, is a proven Australia-wide circus powerhouse. With one producer in Perth, one from Melbourne, and one in Adelaide, the company has toured works all across the nation including sell-out seasons at Perth Fringe World of their adults-only circus, Rouge, and regional tours of Rebel, to venues such as Heart (Margaret River) and Red Earth Performing Arts (Karratha). We are also gaining an international profile, with both Rouge and Rebel touring recently to Edinburgh (August 2022), and The Defiant heading to the Cirk-Uff festival in just a few weeks (Czechia 2023).

The show was directed by Elena Kirschbaum, Highwire’s artistic director and producer. Kirschbaum is also the co-owner of Gluttony, one of the largest venue hubs at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

The cast of The Defiant are highly-trained acrobats, dancers, and athletes, who come from across Australia and New Zealand. Many of the performers are specialists in their chosen field. The creative and production team includes:

  • Elena Kirschbaum (Director & Producer)
  • Natalie Frijia (Producer)
  • Rachel Trainor (Musical Director & Performer)
  • Claire Bindoff, Dominique Cravero, Chloe Fazikas, Rachel Locks, Shona Morgan, Charice Rust, Lucy Tan (Performers)
  • Sarah Platts (Set and Lighting Designer)

Acts in the show include duo and trio acrobatics, trapeze, hula hoops, straps, burlesque, cyr wheel, chair balance, handstands, fire, and whips.



From September 2023


Circus and Physical Theatre


Women, non-binary, and gender diverse people, ages 15+; Fans of contemporary circus; Fans of live rock music and original, emerging Australian songwriters.


60 Minutes

Bump In

8 - 10 Hours

Bump Out

2 Hours


Weekly Fee: $18,000.00 + GST
Royalties: 9%

Company Contacts

Contact Name:Natalie Frisia

Company Website

Tell me more


Venue Format

Designed for Prosc Arch venues, but is flexible to any staging format that meets the minimum staging dimensions

Touring Party



Maximum performances a week: 8

Does this show require a remount? No

First Possible Performance: Morning of the day after bump-in

Minimum Break Between Shows: 2 Hours

Minimum stage dimensions:

The Defiant is adaptable to a range of spaces including proscenium theatres and big top circus tents. However, for the work to be staged effectively The Defiant has these ideal minimum requirements:

  • Minimum stage dimensions: 7m wide x 7m deep (approximately 23ft x 23ft) performing space is required for the full show.
  • 1-3m wing space/backstage space (3ft-9ft) is recommended.
  • •Minimum ceiling height (stage to LX grid): Approximately 6.2m (20ft) overhead clearance (stage to rigging point) for the Chinese pole and doubles trapeze act.

If your venue does not meet these minimum dimensions, THE DEFIANT may be able to be adapted to suit venue specifications. The show is designed for proscenium / frontal audiences, or audiences on 3/4.

Staging and Set Description:

Our set consists of a 1.2m x 3.6m raised platform, on 1.2m legs on casters, and with a handrail on the back. When in Australia, the set can fit this along with all other show equipment into a 4-6 cubic metre van, which we drive between venues. The stage must be a flat and level timber stage appropriate for circus acts involving balance. A minimum weight rating of 150kgs per square metre is required. A raked stage will compromise the quality of the show and may result in some acts being modified or cut from the performance. The show also requires a crossover from stage left to stage right and adequate wing space and masking in each wing for entrances & exits. If possible we prefer to also have an entrance to stage from upstage centre for performers.

Lighting requirements:

A generic touring LX design will be provided to the venue ahead of the show’s arrival, with the LX plot, a show cue file (console dependent), and lighting state references. The show will utilize the standard lighting rig available in most venues, with additional specials. However, it is ideal to have the following:

  • Movers, or fixtures that can be focused, to light the aerialists at height (TBD, determined by venue specifics);
  • Movers, or fixtures that can be focused, to light the juggling clubs at height (approximately 4-5m);
  • LED wash fixtures to create a full stage wash with colour options;
  • Warm & cool front wash.

If it is possible to provide the venue lighting plot or guide ahead of the show, it would be preferable.

Audio requirements:

The Defiant includes a live, one-person rock bank (vocals, drums, guitar, and a sample pad for backing tracks). The show has the following audio requirements:

From the presenter:

  • Mixing desk;
  • FOH PA system + amps suitable for the space;
  • Laptop or computer for QLab playback (if one is available as part of the house kit)

For Musician:

  • Standard drum mic kit 1 x kick 1 x snare 1 x hihat 2 x toms 2 x overheads
  • Sufficient mix stands / XLR’s
  • 5 x DI’s 3 for sample pad, 1 for looper, 1 for guitar amp (if the amp requires one)
  • 1 x mic for guitar amp if it’s not using a DI (Shure SM57 or similar)
  • 1 x guitar amp / power cord (1 x 12″ combo / 25w – Fender Hot Rod Deluxe or Blues Junior, or Vox AC15)
  • 3 x vocal mics, stands, and XLR cables
  • Wireless IEM receiver and transmitter.
  • 1 x foldback line XLR from desk. (No foldback speakers required for musician)
  • Side fill foldback speakers for circus performers adequate to the space
  • Drum Kit Preferred 4 piece Gretsch Brooklyn with 20″ kick, 12″ 14″ toms, any colour.
  • Other brands: 4 piece and 20″ kick, 12″, 14″ toms preferred (ie – Gretsch Catalina Maple, Gretsch Renown, or similar);
  • If possible, Evans drumheads. Drumheads to be in good condition;
  • Quality hardware and comfortable drum stool in good condition, 3 x cymbal stands 1 x hi-hat stand, 1 x snare stand; (No need for cymbals, snare, or kick pedal, as these will be supplied by the artist.)

The company will provide:

  • Live musician with a full-show soundtrack;
  • 1 x Qlab sound file for playback (pre & post-show music);
  • 1 x Mac laptop for playback (if one is not available with the house kit);
  • Roland SPDS-X Sample Pad;
  • Electric Guitar; Pedal Board & Amp.

The musician also has an ongoing sponsorship with Gretsch which may be able to assist with hire for drum kits in metropolitan areas. It is not a guarantee that a kit could be available at the time / location when the show is booked, but it is a lead we are happy to apply our best efforts to following if this is of assistance with booking.

Other technical or performance notes:

THE DEFIANT also has five live-load aerial acts: a double-point trapeze, a Chinese pole, a slack rope, an aerial tissue, and aerial straps. The equipment will be paged or struck when they are not being used. The performers, who are trained aerialists and certified Australian riggers, carry out all the mid-show rigging. A risk assessment document is available on request.

Venue Requirements for Aerial Acts:

  • Grid Access upon arrival for bump in;
  • Copy of venue plan 4-6 weeks prior to tour start date;
  • At least 3 live-load points in the rig with a minimum load rating of 1 tonne and/or load-bearing floor point(s) with at least 1 live-load point in the rig.
  • At least 2 live-load points on kingpoles or truss, or in the rig, on which we can attach the slack rope.

Two points will be used for a static trapeze. One additional point will have a running line / pulley, with the Chinese pole, slack rope, and tissue being swapped out at appropriate times in the show.

As the rigging for this can be adapted in a variety of ways, this is an act we would discuss in detail with a venue, so we can plan out the best rigging plot.