28 June 2012

Review: From the ground up

From The Ground Up
Circus Oz
21 June 2012
Circus Oz 
Big Top, Birrarung
to 15 July
then touring

How awesome are Circus Oz?

It's 34 years later and they've lost none of the drive, guts and beliefs that formed this company, and they continue to prove that you don't have to stop having fun as you grow up. In fact, some of the founders are still working alongside brand new members who weren't around in the late 70s.

A Circus Oz show begins in the welcome tent where there's circus food (there is nothing better than a bag of doughnuts), drinks and souvenirs offered by some of the loveliest and enthusiastic people you'll ever meet behind a counter. And it's heated. In the main tent the performers are there to help you settle in and remind you that an audience is as much a part of a show as anyone on stage.

This year's construction theme hints to their new home being built in Collingwood and is tied together with a search for the definitive Australian song. The choices include one about a queen and jelly beans and one about an Australia that's not fair and demonstrates the meaning of girt.

The show has a wholeness that balances the beautiful with the chaotic, the skill with the politics and brings art, fun, inclusion and message into every moment.  Each performer develops character that is never lost in the tricks and each scene is shaped to start simply and surprise with a wow moment. With an energy that never flags, the performers are some of the best around, they ensure that everyone shines and share their enthusiasm of having the best jobs in world.

It's had to pick highlights among such consistency, but audience favourites included a beautiful straps routine that shared the stage with the human counterweight, the group single trapeze and teeterboard, a four-person club juggle and Fantaysia Fitnesss "totes-co"roller aerobics.

This company also celebrates everyone who makes the show a success, from an opening night that gets management, FOH, stage management, designers and trainers onto the stage to a program that includes the photos and bios and everyone who works as hard as the performers to make a great show.  And it's a program worth buying. Wonderful photos, positive messages, info you want to read, terrific copy (that's been proofed), a page about the circus acts, a fold out cover and the coolest pop-out collector cards ever. It's a program you want to keep and has been created with as much love and care as the show.

It's impossible to leave a Circus Oz show without feeling better than when you went in. This mob are still as original, exciting and diverse as they've ever been and what started as group of performers who wanted to create something they loved (and knew that a circus is no place for animals) is now a company that tours the world, develops artists, works with communities and keeps reminding us that we can change the world if we work together to create something we love and enjoy.

If you've seen Circus Oz, you probably have your tickets. If you haven't, what are you waiting for? Grab kids, grandparents, neighbours and strangers because this is a national company who embrace us all and should be celebrated in a public holiday where we all have to learn to juggle or hoola hoop.

Photos by Rob Blackburn.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com

Some chats with Circus Oz performers.
Jeremy Davies
Luke Taylor
Ania Reynolds
Dale Woodbridge
Bec Matthews
Stevie Mills

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