Category: Circus

Review: St Kilda Royale

The Shuffle Club presents St Kilda Royale 

By Jessica Gittel Cornish

Inspired by the European cabaret halls of the 1800’s and 1900’s the Memo Music Hall opened it’s doors to showcase the youthful neo-circus production, St Kilda Royale. The heart and soul of the night was led by the energetic four-piece jazz and swing band, The Shuffle Club. The players were professional, talented and kept the momentum of the show pulsing forward throughout the night. Weaving in and out of the musical tunes were your favourite contemporary circus numbers including acro balance, juggling, hula hoops and a splash of modern burlesque.

The thing I love about circus is that there’s such a thin line between amazement and catastrophe. Performers hold the audience captivated in the moment, and have them wondering if such a stunt can be pulled off? In most cases this was the case at St Kilda Royale, but things didn’t always go to plan. A stray juggling ball and a couple run away hula hoops flung into the crowd, but it just added to the fun and the excitement of the live performance.

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My favourite act of the night was hands down a percussive juggling piece starring Joe Fisher and Shuffle Club front man who pumped out snappy beats on his mini drum kit. The duo successfully created a visually and musically engaging number. Followed closely by a romantic, fire eating, slash throwing number – again something I often didn’t see in my circus going days.

The transitions between items were smooth and the lighting design was basic, but effective. The performance was raw and brilliantly rough around the edges, and the night was filled with energy and fun that left the audience in high spirits. The cast have great potential and I hope to see them back on the stage again very soon!

St Kilda Royale was performed at Memo Music Hall 4 – 8 July. See their website for more information about the production.



Review: Precarious

Circus Oz’ Precarious has audiences smiling minutes in, gasping minutes later and applauding for many minutes more

By Joana Simmons

2018 marks Circus Oz’ 40th anniversary and if their new show Precarious is anything to go by, the company is far from a mid-life crisis and much closer to getting better and better with age. Set in the newly located big top in the Royal Botanic Gardens, this high-class show features a cast of multi-skilled circus artists and musicians. I was smiling minutes in, gasping minutes later and applauding for many minutes more.

The story of the show is simple: set in an imagined world, a bureaucracy called The Ministry of Seed control nature like a group of bumbling, tumbling fools. Times are precarious, good seeds are scarce, humans have a big impact on the environment, in fact they have the power to make everything come toppling down (literally).

The opening number features ambient sounds, which are looped to create layers and layers within this quirky world, as the cast deconstructs a giant tower of jenga blocks painted like a forest. From the get go their energy as an ensemble is a strong force, as they tumble, roll, balance, throw and catch each other fluidly. The conflict arises when one special seed goes missing and the apparatus and methods that all the performers used to get it back still have me in awe.

Artistic Director Rob Tannion and co-director Kate Fryer must have one incredible dynamic to produce another outstanding production for Circus Oz. I was fortunate enough to review last year’s Model Citizens which was this killer combo’s debut. The circus cast of Tara Silcock, Dylan Singh, Tania Cervantes Chamorro, Jake Silvestro, Jon Bonaventura, Emily Gare and Lachlan Sukroo each had standout moments across their apparatuses and in their supporting roles.

Peformers Jake Silvestro, Lachlan Sukroo and Tania Cervantes Chamorro. Photograph by Rob Blackburn.

Those who had me on the edge of my seat were Jake Silvestro in his rue cyr act full with smoky haze, Emily Gare with her balance blocks, Tania Cervantes Chamorro’s aerial slings and Lachlan Sukroo on something I have never seen before: swinging Chinese pole. Sukroo was like a monkey, only much more elegant. I found Jon Bonaventura to be a beautiful dancer and his hand balancing act featured incredible flexibility and was so well choreographed. Characterwise, all performers were absorbed in the world they created. I didn’t see any facial expressions that gave away the hours of training and effort that must go into their craft.

The comic duo of Sukroo and Silcock carried much of the story. The overall show stealer though was Tara Silcock. From doing hula hoops whilst swinging in the air, to every small and hilarious facial expression – I couldn’t keep my eyes off her – she was equal parts fearless and charismatic.

One of my favourite parts of this show was the live music. Musical director Jeremy Hopkins has created and performed a joyfully dynamic soundtrack with a huge range. There was not one point where he was not drumming, singing, looping, clapping, creating voice overs and who knows what else. Hopkins was supported by Sophia Exiner on keys, synth and vocals and together the pair created a full-scale sound that was perfectly suited to each act.

Other parts of the production that deserve congratulations are Laurel Frank’s costume design, Maddy Seach’s lighting design, Michael Baxter’s set and prop design and Andrew Dyson rigging that had him climbing to the very heights of the big top, only to slide down a ladder minutes later.

Circus Oz is made up of “creative maveriks, ground-breakers and risk takers.” Circus is far bigger than the canvas walls – it’s what makes us want to play again, delight in the gravity defying and marvel at magic. When work-life balance feels like the thing that is most precariously on the edge, escaping to a show like this, in a stunning setting, is an absolute joy. Buy a ticket, or twenty, as Precarious is highly enjoyable for everyone.

Precarious is being performed 26 June – 15 July at the Circus Oz Big Top situated in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Victoria. Tickets can be puchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 665 915.

For information about audio described performances, Auslan interpreted performances and companion cards, take a look at this access ticket webpage.

Photographs: Rob Blackburn

Review: Le Sacré

Daring and exciting fusion of circus arts and classical ballet

By Lois Maskiell

The National Institute of Circus Arts has joined forces with the Australian Ballet School in the bold, large-scale production, Le Sacré. With over forty bodies on stage, directing this large work, which fuses two distinct art forms as well as showcases diverse student talent, is no easy feat.

The directorial team includes NICA’s Movement and Performance Coordinators Zebastian Hunter and Meredith Kitchen along with Simon Dow, the Resident Choreographer at the Australian Ballet School. With additional creative input from Francois-Eloi Lavingnac, these collaborators have devised a piece using all the right key ingredients. Though despite the advertised aim to expose the themes inherent in Nijinsky’s the Rites of Spring, I found that the narrative development left any deep exploration of its themes to the wayside.

What was identifiable was two distinct parts: the first filled with riotous dance scenes and the second filled with smaller acts and the ceremonious choosing of the young girl or sacrificial victim. One ingenious directorial choice was how the ballet’s story is transferred from a pagan world of ritual to a twisted ball where power constructs are playfully altered through a camp aesthetic mixed with a techno sensibility.

The technical abilities of these bold, young students are manifold. Their talent is abundant, particularly during smaller group acts that made me wish for more solos. Standout performers include Georgia Webb, a chameleon of skill whose aptitude for acrobatics is as dynamic as her skill on lyra, rue cyr and hand balancing. Straps performer, Troy Griffiths had an intriguing presence, covered in tattoos and endowed with grace and flexibility, he was a brilliant embodiment of circus’ power to subvert the mundane to something extraordinary.

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Stark and beautiful choreography was found in a visually poetic rue cyr act that featured three wheels. Jessie Carson on dance trapeze was serene and of a penetrating icy calm. Her timing was in complete unison with her apparatus and like a seasoned performer she didn’t reveal a hint of exertion in her execution.

The ballet dancers doused the show with energy and elegance, approaching their form without such distinct specialisations as found in circus. With powerful leaps and complex foot work, the differences between the two art forms were exposed. An exceptional skipping rope act involved classical ballet steps accomplished in the minute gaps of the rope’s swing. The pas de deux and pirouettes in the second half were exact and powerful.

The stirring result of circus arts and classical ballet coming together in such a novel and bold production as Le Sacré is exiting to say the least. Collaborations like this do push boundaries and it would be wonderful to see more in the future.

Le Sacré is being performed at the National Institute of Circus Arts until 23 June. Tickets can be puchased online.

Photographs: Aaron Walker

Butterfly Club presents Gypsy Daredevil

Deadly sideshow stunts not for the faint-hearted

By Ciara Thorburn

Aerial Manx, the World’s Only Acrobatic Sword Swallowing Artist and three times Guinness World Record holder takes us into his world of pleasure and valour with his new solo show Gypsy Daredevil. Held in a basement of the intimate Butterfly Club at the end of one of Melbourne’s iconic laneways, it couldn’t be a more fitting venue for an amiable night of circus and vaudeville. The show presents a perfect unification of acrobatics, juggling, magic, street-style crowd work and incredible sideshow skills.

And I mean incredible.

Aerial Manx is unquestionably an Australian sideshow icon with a wealth of experience and his skills are next level, most of which have to be seen to be conceived. His presence onstage is a sight to behold: his extreme body modifications are an indication of his relentless commitment to his art. Being a unique and inimitable variety performer, our attention is undivided with the crunch of the first staple into his bare chest. But this is just the beginning, audience members look around wondering if the others knew what they were in for. Aerial Manx, a practiced master of tension indulges in the attention as the audience gasps and squeals in awe of the unexpected and the sublime throughout.

What surprised me most was that amidst the levels of sideshow extremity, there are elements of authenticity and beauty. The running narrative of #vanlife gives the audience an honest glimpse into the real life of this artist. It is not often that you can describe a freak show as heart-warming, but Aerial Manx holds his freak badge in high regard. The need for classic showman style banter becomes obsolete as he connects with his audience on a profound level, right before we experience quite possibly the most dangerous stunt ever performed.

With a name like Gypsy Daredevil, this show is not for the faint-hearted but for those who are looking for an extraordinary night out. Prepare yourself, your lovers, your gag reflex, and don’t try this at home.

Gypsy Daredevil runs until 12 May at the Butterfly Club.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9663 8107.


Hoopla Clique Presents Chores

A must-see family show for kids and kids at heart

By Ciara Thorburn

The show opens with a simple premise, two goofy looking guys dressed in man-sized onesies, with a voiceover of their mother screaming down the hallway to clean their room. These two goofs quickly prove themselves as talented acrobats, jugglers, and charmingly adorable clowns. What we are about to witness is a tight, well-choreographed and thoroughly developed show with humour and slapstick comedy that appeals not only to the kids, but to mum and dad (and grandma) too.

The best part? The ingenious, reverse psychology involved at the roots of the whole show. At one point the brothers (Julian Roberts and Derek Llewellyn) have the kids screaming “it’s still messy” or “you missed a spot”. One thing I know is that kids love telling adults what to do, and these brothers obviously enjoy indulging in self-induced audience chaos, while remaining undoubtedly in control. The performers embody the true spirit of clowning, setting-up scenarios where they enable the kids to outsmart the adults. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a kids show that integrates conceptual clowning techniques so immaculately.

And just as with any good kids show, there is a message. It’s the essence of the whole production. The performers intelligently characterise their twin-brother relationship, covering themes like sharing, cooperation, adventure, wrestling, comradery and danger. In fact, they do it so well that at some points, their stupid and smart clown logic seems lost by the adults, only to make perfect sense to the kids. It goes to show that these idiots speak fluent ‘kid’, they know their audience, and they know exactly what they’re doing.

With a simple concept and both a clear narrative and objective, this show is full of surprises and is an absolute delight to watch. The whole show has impeccable timing, great visual imagery, high-skilled circus and acrobatics, and flawless execution. Chores, a must-see family show for kids (or kids at heart).

This is a review of Chores as performed at Woodford Folk Festival, January 2018.

Chores will be performed 18 April as part of Showcase Victoria at Darebin Arts Centre. Tickets can be purchased online.

Midsumma Presents RIOT

Dublin-based company, THISISPOPBABY have brought a perfect mix of outrageous comedy, skill-based acts and quality variety to Arts Centre Melbourne

By Ciara Thorburn

THISISPOPBABY’s latest show, RIOT is everything you expect and everything you don’t. This perfect montage of cabaret, drag, music, dance and circus, mixed with political undertones will leave you both reflective and inspired.

A glittery and sexy opening introduces four mysteriously hooded figures, who soon reveal themselves as RIOT’s talented vocalists (Alma Kelliher, Adam Matthews and Nicola Kavanagh). Spoken word poet, Kate Brennan delivers emotive stories that address diverse subjects from teen pregnancy to capitalism. Her powerful and rhythmical style give us a sense of the raw, reckless ride that we are about to embark on.

Drag artist, Panti Bliss as MC leads us through the evening’s performances in a camp and rowdy fashion. Add a sensitive strongman who defies gender norms (Ronan Brady) to this already spectacular group of artists, as well as a quirky and captivating tap-dance duo (Philip Connaughton and Deirdre Griffin) and the Lords of Strut, and you have one hell of a talented cast. The crowd favourite was easily the former stars of Britain’s Got Talent, the Lords of Strut – if you haven’t heard or seen these guys before, prepare yourselves because what you will see cannot be unseen. In a ruckus of ‘80s dance parody, lycra leotards and homemade mankinis their ridiculousness proves to be absolute genius. These guys really steal the show with their loveable stupidity and impeccable comedic timing.

What stands out most is the cast of diverse, passionate and highly-skilled performers who bring a mashup of specialties together to complement each other delightfully. Too often we see high (or low) budget shows where the performers look exhausted, run down, or like they would prefer to be somewhere else. Every act in RIOT brings a fresh performer to the stage boasting peerless energy and incomparable talent.

Dublin-based company, THISISPOPBABY have brought a perfect mix of outrageous comedy, skill-based acts and quality variety to Arts Centre Melbourne as part of Midsumma Festival 2018. RIOT is a pro-queer, pro-fun, pro-friendly spectacle where anything goes and anything can happen. It’s an absolute delight of a show and a great night out with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or both.
Dates: 31 January – 9 February
Venue: Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
Prices: $30 – $79

The MC Showroom Presents The Odditorium

The Odditorium entertains, baffles and delights

By Owen James

A vaudevillian cabaret night full of circus tricks and magic is hiding at The MC Showroom, just off Chapel Street in Prahan. The Odditorium is packed full of beautiful simplicity, daring feats of showmanship and pure imagination.


Our host, Sophie DeLightful, invites us into this night of immersive entertainment with an invitation (or perhaps warning) of upcoming audience interaction, her raunchy and bold personality providing the energy and presence needed for a cabaret host – she fits the role perfectly. Her powerful vocals during songs scattered throughout the show are sensational, providing bursts of energy at just the right moment and her Buffer Boys will give any masseuse in Melbourne a run for their money.

The very talented Mr Marmalade charmed us for a solid half-hour, eliciting numerous gasps and rounds of applause from the audience. Marmalade is a highly skilled (and charming) magician who is also a truly beautiful storyteller – a simple paper bag can become an object of mystery with his carefully chosen words. His utter perfection in sleight of hand occurs just inches away from his transfixed audience, each trick as mesmerising as the last. Entering with just two small bags of tricks and a moustache with a life of its own, we get the feeling that Mr Marmalade’s act could travel and delight absolutely anywhere, street side or amphitheatre.

After a short interval, The Quizzical Mr Jeff brings his visual, prop-based comedy to the stage for the second act – and while the stage of the MC Showroom isn’t the smallest I’ve seen, Mr Jeff certainly needs every single inch of it for his dazzlingly physical finale! The Quizzical Mr Jeff is a daring performer, who uses every prop he brings onstage to its full possible extent (a personal highlight being a tango with a hat stand!). As we watch everyday objects take on a magical life of their own, this mystical man utilises audience interaction as well as a heavy reliance on precise timing of audio cues to bring his unique world to life – although further rehearsal to perfect the synchronised timing might have been beneficial.

Sound mixing and lighting from co-producer Alexandra Nel was simple but effective, LEDs creating soft washes of colour that faded into blackness.

The Odditorium entertains, baffles and delights, just like a true night of vaudeville and circus magic should. It is the perfect show for this intimate venue and a wonderful evening’s entertainment as an antidote to life outside – you will leave with pained cheeks from unavoidable smiles. I am looking forward to suggested future varied instalments of this collection of sideshow oddities!

Dates: 11 – 20  January

Venue: The MC Showroom, 48 Clifton St, Prahran

Times: 8:00pm

Prices: $22 – $35