Circus Oz: 30th Birthday Bash
Acrobatics with an Aussie accent
This article is from 2008.
Characters in colourful costumes exchange banter with the audience, the live band plays a constant stream of Gogol Bordello-like polka and one act involves a dramatic take on Frankenstein's monster. This isn't your average circus. Far more theatrical than trad big top and ringmaster affairs, Circus Oz still offers the requisite acrobatics, juggling, clowning and stunts but with added elements of performance and personality.
They've had a long time to get it right. Formed 30 years ago the troupe has always maintained an agenda of inclusivity, equality and political awareness. The performers create the show collaboratively and their political agenda has led them to perform in a refugee camp in the West Bank.
While the company has a distinguished pedigree, the hackneyed proverb that you can't teach an old dog new tricks has never been proved so wrong. Hoops, bricks, poles, ropes, and lots of balls are combined with extreme athleticism and strength to demonstrate circus skills par excellence, with a nod to Chinese circus styles after training with China's Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe. The humour is all Aussie, though, with low-brow antics (and some ropey topical quips) meeting the high circus skills to straddle the music hall and the gymnastics arena.
Eschewing the use of animals, a robotic dog and some kangaroo costumes are the only concessions to this outdated practice. The dogbot is particularly effective, undermining the tropes of audience credulity with some well-aimed meta-humour.
The Australian straightforwardness also means that there is no blustering big talk and courting of applause: the tricks speak for themselves. What you see is what you get: a big, shiny, crowd-puller of a spectacle by a group that is at the top of its game, and occasionally at the top of a very long pole.
Assembly Hall, 623 3030, until 25 Aug (not 11, 18 & 19), 4.45pm (also Sat 12.20pm), £15–£17.50 (£14–£15).