Category: Circus

Review: Rouge

Oh Boy, Oh Girl, Oh Non-binary! Circus for grown ups

By Leeor Adar

Rouge is so white hot, my friend and I were squealing with delight, amazement and desire. It is just – that – good. It is also downright naughty, and if a little bit of kink is your thing, this show will deliver all the kicks and kink of your dreams.

The group, Issie Hart, Paul Westbrook, Lyndon Johnson, Jessie Mckibbin, Maddy Burleigh and Liam deJong, have toured Rouge internationally and thankfully brought their extraordinary arsenal of talent and skill to the circus ring of Melbourne’s Wonderland Spiegeltent.

Rouge isn’t your ordinary adult circus show. The breathtaking operatic vocals of Hart propel the work into unique territory. The mix of opera and circus art conjures up an old-world aesthetic whilst breaking modern boundaries. The audience is both delighted and surprised at the contents of the show, affirming that circus of this calibre will always draw the crowds.

Every artist in this show is a master of their craft, and each of them bring their own flair and character to the work. Westbrook’s camp black swan vibe is a riot, and the audience clearly loves the playful character he brings to the stage. Westbrook and Johnson perform an S&M-inspired tangle of love on the ropes with such ardour that you can’t look away. In terms of incredible pairings, Burleigh’s fluidity and control as she performs stunning tableaus with deJong is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Another stand out is Mckibbin’s fire-twirling, which is truly smoking hot. There is another routine featuring Mckibbin and three of the male performers that is whip-crackingly decadent, so that is a surprise I will leave for the audiences …

Prepare yourselves to be delighted by dancing lampshades, thumping beats, and every deviant indulgence you could endure, all served tongue-in-cheek. The inclusivity of the night meant that anyone and everyone could enjoy the sexiness of the show and unashamedly laugh, smile and swoon with abandon. It doesn’t hurt they serve up some delicious cocktails to boot – it really is good to be a grown up sometimes!

Tickets available: https://www.wonderlandspiegeltent.com.au/ticketing?/event/rouge/a4e28589-bc44-404e-9330-95a5fda4f522/

Photography by Jodie Hutchinson

 

 

 

 

Review: Circus Oz Presents AURORA

Dazzling visuals and flying penguins

By Leeor Adar

Circus Oz’s latest offering, Aurora, is a whole lot of fun for the family, offering dazzling visuals and humour with a nod to the climate and its refugees.

Directed by Kate Fryer, the talented ensemble includes a polar bear (Tara Silcock), a band of flying penguins (Sam Aldham, Matty Brown, Adam Malone, Spenser Inwood, Shani Stephens, Jillibalu Riley), and a fantastic live music soundscape featuring Jeremy Hopkins and Selene Messinis.

Children will be completely entertained from the get-go, with the band of flying penguins eliciting laughter and smiles from the crowd, including a few bouncing props tossed amongst the audience – for those holding a glass of wine, be warned! The penguins soon show their prowess with the flying trapeze, peppering humour from high above as they perform extraordinary acts, leaping to one another with audible gasps from the audience.

Silcock emerges to the audience grinning, and commences a polar bear/climate awareness rap, which is admittedly a difficult feat to perform in a polar bear suit under the hot lights. But Silcock is up for the challenge, flanked by Hopkins and Messinis on drums. The rap is a touch breathless, but my partner and I shared a sad look about the current state of affairs for the polar beast. It quickly turns playful again, as Silcock attempts to enjoy a hearty meal of a toy penguin, much to the outrage of the surrounding children in the audience, prompting her to commence an artful foot juggle with the toy penguin.

The unfolding of Aurora tells the story of toxic waste and rubbish piling up, and the plight of the animals fighting for food and territory. Circus Oz attempts to explore this through a combination of humour, and acts that dissect its impact on the environment and its inhabitants whilst showcasing the many talents of its ensemble. It’s hard to inject the realities of our environment to children, and while its not lost on the adult spectators, I do wonder if the younger members of the audience are cognisant to what is being performed.

Stand out, Adam Malone, is electrifying in his Washington trapeze act suspended above the toxic waste, mostly balancing on his head (gasp!), and later again proving his mercurial performance style in a hoops act. Sam Aldham’s notable collection of plastic rubbish from a rope as he climbs it precariously above the ground, is another nod to the pick-up-your-rubbish fodder for the children in the audience. Matthew Brown is a regal addition of the classic ringmaster trope, adding a level of gravitas to the mostly light-hearted entertainment.

Aurora, with its quality selection of circus acts, music and high-energy performances makes for an enjoyable romp for all of its spectators.

You can catch Aurora until 6 October at the gorgeous Royal Botanic Gardens. Don’t forget to take the younger members of your tribe! Tickets: https://www.circusoz.com/shows-and-tickets/about/10021/aurora.html

Photography by Mark Turner

Review: Sesame Street Circus Spectacular

Full of wonderment and surprise

By Narelle Wood

Silver’s Circus presents an action packed circus show, with something to entertain everyone. Sesame Street characters such as Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Bert and Ernie, start the show with a song and a dance, and are soon joined by a number of different juggling and acrobatic acts. Before you know it the beloved fluffy characters have decided the circus looks like a fun, and wander off to wonder what circus acts they might be able to contribute.

The circus acts themselves include everything from juggling, monocycle riding, acrobatics, hoola-hoops, motorbikes, and what I’m going to refer to as the rings of death. Most of the ‘oohhs’ and ‘aaahhhs’ came from the adults in the audience, with perhaps the difficulty level of some of the tricks being a over the really little ones’ heads. But for most part everybody’s eyes were wide with amazement and there were plenty of moments that the two little people with me were in absolute awe. Four motorbikes in the spherical cage was “crazy” (in a good way) according to my nephew, and my niece was very much taken with tightrope walker’s ability to cross the rope in pointe shoes and on pointe. It was, however, the dogs that were a clear crowd favourite, especially when the dogs were being naughty.

There are moments when the music is really loud, making it hard to understand some of the talking, and there are times where the lights are really bright, or turned off altogether. The music and lights worked really well to highlight the performances and allow the stage to be reset but, while most of the kids coped, it is worth thinking about this if there are any members of your party that have light or sound sensitivities.

That been said, there was definite excitement from everyone to see the Sesame Street characters live on stage. I’m not sure the younger kids would have understood the jokes or what the Sesame Street characters were singing about, so I would have liked to see the Sesame Street characters worked into the show a little bit more.

Sesame Street Circus is a show full of wonderment and surprise, with the occasional nerve-wrecking moment. It is definitely a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

Silver’s Circus’s Sesame Street Circus Spectacular is playing until the 11th of October. Tickets available at http://www.sesamestreetcircus.com.au/tickets

Review: Wunderage

Boundary-pushing, immersive acrobatics

By Narelle Wood

Wunderage, directed by Rob Tannion and Chelsea McGuffin is a collaboration between Circus Oz and Company 2, bringing together elements of acrobatics, music, audience movement and wonder in an exploration of pushing boundaries and strength.

Described by Company 2 director Chelsea McGuffin as “the tightrope between who we are and who we might become”, Wunderage plays with space both vertically and horizontally as circus performers showcase their strength, flexibility, courage and control. While I’m not overly sure whether I understood the ways in which the performance explored the space between who we are and who we might be, I did find myself marvelling at the sheer physicality of the performers. Phoebe Armstrong, Jess McCrindle, Chelsea McGuffin, Dylan Singh, David Trappes, Lachy Shelley and Skip Walker-Milne found themselves precariously balanced on bicycles, platforms and each other. And just in case walking across a tightrope didn’t seem difficult enough, there were headstands, point-shoes and high heels involved as well.

Harriet Oxley’s costumes were amazing and were very reminiscent of what I imagine 1920’s circus costumes to be like in both design and colour, as well as a touch of sparkle where appropriate. The musical accompaniment, provided by Grant Arthur and Bonnie Stewart, was able to strike the perfect yet difficult balance between providing enough atmosphere but not too much as to overpower the circus performance. There were so many different elements to love and as the show went on the tension only built as they performed more and more complex tricks, many of which don’t sound like they should be possible; balancing in a headstand while being pulled across a tightrope for instance.

As the acrobats moved between a variety of tightropes, Chinese Poles, platforms and mini-stages the audience were encouraged to move with them. And this was perhaps the only thing I was, not disappointed in, but perplexed by. Rob Tannion (Circus Oz Artistic Director) had said that part of what they wished to accomplish was the removal of barriers between the performers and the audience, and this is a really interesting premise. But in removing the seating, other physical barriers were created. It was often really difficult to see what was going on, especially when the performers were doing acrobatics on the ground, and this is from me who is reasonably tall and was wearing heels.

Theoretically, the tightrope and platform work should be visible from most vantage points, but there were a number of people up the back scrambling to see, often taken to equipment or standing on chairs to get better vision. I couldn’t help but wonder if you were a child, shorter in stature or someone with a disability how much you would actually be able to see and enjoy. There was a lot of jostling as equipment and people were moved about, and I found this more of a distraction than an opportunity to immerse myself in the show.

For anyone curious about acrobatics, pushing physical boundaries and immersive theatre, Wunderage is a fascinating, if not a little nerve-wracking, exploration of all three.

 

Wunderage runs until 30 June at Meat Market, North Melbourne. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on: 1800 710 499.

Photograph: Aaron Walker

 

Review: Close Encounters

Deliciously camp sci-fi burlesque

By Bradley Storer

Australian all male burlesque group Briefs return to Melbourne with their latest work Close Encounters,and without a doubt the boys are better then ever! This time around the troupe have a thematic link tying the show together, the idea of ‘close encounters’ in terms of both science fiction and the connection between human beings as a whole. We’re invited aboard ‘the mother of all motherships’ by host and drag performer Shivanna (AKA Fez Fa’anana) as the boys of Briefs deliver a hopeful message from the future.

The audience is treated to a stunning array of burlesque, acrobatics, dance and comedy across the evening. Highpoints include a science experiment/juggling routine that first thrills then tantalizes with balls flying through the air and volcanoes exploding as a lab uniform vanishes. A sensual, spacey strip show featuring an astronaut floating through space in nothing but a g-string. A gorgeous and gawky ballet set to the futuristic thrum of Kate Bush. And all throughout, an inexplicable but wonderfully grouchy white rabbit who continually points to a ringing alarm clock – suggesting the inescapable tugging of time as it drags us into the future, perhaps? At every twist and turn of the performance, the audience were whooping and hollering in ecstatic joy.

Across the board, Close Encounters takes the aesthetic previously established by Briefs – queer, cheeky, joyful, political and daring – and deepens it in beautiful ways. The highlight of the entire show is a gorgeous sequence exploring the limits of the human body with Shivanna as icy extra-terrestrial mistress manipulating and contorting her aerialist test subject. Campy, deliciously overwrought elements crystallise into a stunning whole that can only be described as a piece of pure art.

Briefs continues to offer up work that arouses, disturbs and most of all, delights the audience. While it admittedly offers no solutions to the problems of humanity, it does give a glimpse of a time in which humanity has moved towards a more joyous tomorrow – and that is more than consolation enough.

Close Encounters ran at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne 20 – 24 March. See here for more information.

Photograph: Kate Pardey

Review: Wolfgang

Circus meets Mozart in a cheeky blend of classical and popular forms

By Lois Maskiell

Acclaimed Australian contemporary circus company, Circa, flip high and low art in their spirited and lively children’s show, Wolfgang. Titled after none other than the enduring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself, the production offers little ones an energetic and hilarious foray into classical music, complete with a live accordion, virtuosic acrobatics and even fart jokes.

Sparks begin when acrobat (Kathryn O’Keeffe) enjoys a solitary birthday moment while she spins a Mozart record on a nearby turntable. In instants, Mozart (Paul O’Keeffe) and a clownish accordion player appear from a refrigerator door and the mayhem quickly escalates.

The next hour features a series of wild and whirling segments in which Mozart and the acrobat enter into a series of duet like routines. From first-rate tumbling to perfectly poised hand balancing, the performers showcase their astonishing skills. Children are heard gurgling and whooping throughout the theatre as amusing stunts – which at times only feature a music stand or moving spotlight – raise the roof with laughter.

Mozart’s character is performed with an overflowing exuberance that’s at once infectious and energising to witness. Towards the beginning his acrobatic companion is given a brief window to showcase her own talent and strength, though her brilliance is mostly overshadowed by the capricious genius of Mozart. Mozart embraces the limelight in his outlandish cycling routine: he jumps around, shifting positions as he dresses from underpants into an extravagant gentleman’s coat.

Circa delivers yet again with Wolfgang. By blending classical and popular forms, they continue in the same vein as their previous work like the circus-opera Il Ritorno, or their more recent interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Director Yaron Lifschitz takes Mozart’s elegant music and injects within it a certain joy and playfulness which teases traditions all the while reminding us to enjoy art wherever it’s found.

Wolfgang is being performed 2 – 12 January at Arts Centre Melbourne with a relaxed performance taking place 9 January. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Photograph: supplied

Review: Rock Bang

Risqué and riotous: Circus Oz and Die Roten Punkte join forces 

By Leeor Adar

They’re certainly a little batsh*t, but that’s the appeal of the faux German duo, Astrid & Otto Rot (Aussie Clare Bartholomew and Daniel Tobias), the “brother/sister” team behind Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots). To be frank, I walked into the Merlyn Theatre with few presumptions about the night ahead. The question for me, as a circus fan, was whether there would be enough space for some excellent circus, or would the circus be ancillary to the Rot?

It’s always fun when circus serves itself up with other performing arts, and pairing the incredible talent of Circus Oz with Otto & Astrid with their wacky punk appeal actually works out like coconut ice cream and mango sorbet – it’s a natural union of bedfellows, risqué upon risqué. However, the standout for the show really came down to the relentless energy of all performers and the crème of the crop of Circus Oz, whether they were on swinging trapeze or punk dancing in space-disco getups.

Rock Bang follows the journey of orphaned siblings, Otto & Astrid, as they escape the seismic violence of the death of their parents into a life of baked goods and the Berlin underground. Almost fatally dependent on his sister, Otto watches on from his technicolour dream world to Astrid’s descent into a drug and sex-fuelled haze. It’s very tongue-in-cheek punk rock, and makes for some outrageously funny scenes due to the performers’ excellent physicality.

Ensemble April Dawson, Alyssa Moore, Kyle Raftery, Matt Wilson, Robbie Curtis and Rockie Stone were stellar; the ensemble was exciting to watch as they performed various acts throughout the show. My only real wish was for more of them and less of the music.

Director Rob Tannion’s vision for Rock Bang is clear, it’s an in-your-face extravaganza of loud punk vibes and fantastic acrobatics. I found that frequently it was just a little much, particularly in the first act where the piece was disjointed in places, and a little unsure of its direction. This cleared up dramatically for a far more enjoyable and succinct second act that combined dance and song far more effectively. A particularly well-crafted scene was at “rehab” where Astrid makes a bold escape. I absolutely loved the choice in body doubles for the action sequences that led to some riotous physical comedy.

Although I did spy some very under-13 children in the audience, the show is really a 15+ affair, given that gang-bangs and drug use are featured. My favourite moment in the second act was hearing a little girl ask her mother, “What’s rehab?” and I glanced at my friend honestly pondering how a parent should break the rehab seal to their offspring. Now, how punk rock is that?

 

Rock Bang will be performed 15 – 25 November with an audio described & AUSLAN matinee 24 November. Tickets are available online and by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111.

Photograph: Mark Turner