Sunday, 22 June 2008
Circus Oz 30th Birthday Bash, June 22, 2008 ***1/2
Circus Oz 30th Birthday Bash
Where and When: Big Top, Birrarung Marr, June 22 until July 13, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 22, 2008
The Circus Oz 30th Birthday Bash show is fast, furious and really goofy. Director, Mike Finch, with 11 circus performers and three musicians, maintains a relentless pace.
The acts are diverse and so, unlike other circuses in which artists specialise in one act, the ensemble needs to be versatile, performing across several circus skills.
Circus can be hilarious, risky, technically brilliant or breathtakingly beautiful. This show does the first two well but does not aim for beauty or brilliance. It is a larrikin, Aussie show with rough edges and a warm, comfortable engagement with the audience rather than the artistic, ethereal beauty of that fancy, expensive Canadian company.
This is not to say that there is not significant, often exceptional skill evident in the acts. Ben Lewis’s Zombie Straps routine is technically superb with a novel and funny scenario. The chair balancing and duo trapeze act, set in a Spanish bar, is sexy, dangerous and atmospheric. Having a strong concept and through-line in a circus act makes an enormous difference to its entertainment value.
The trio of silver-costumed hoop divers creates a simple but exciting routine with strong technique while the tight wire act is constructed on a funny and clever Aussie outback theme: an old bloke totters along the wire to a shabby, old dunny.
The Chinese pole act and juggling are entertaining and we cannot ignore Tim Coldwell’s cunning upside-down roof walk that was a Circus Oz favourite for so many years.
I was hoping for the reappearance of Special Robert, one of the funniest acts from early Oz days. He was catapulted at the tent wall, only to stick like a bug on flypaper. Hilarious.
There are some weak acts in the show. Although the teeterboard act kangaroo costumes are quirky, the act lacks shape and focus. The bounce juggling was too long and the contortionist locked in a water-filled tank is just plain freaky. The clowns are often funny but they shout too much, their energy is uncontrolled and they lack some essential clown technique.
The Birthday Bash is two hours of good fun for the entire family – and you won’t be subjected to all the preliminary long speeches after opening night.
By Kate Herbert