Tag: Sharon Gruenert


Sheer delight

By Lois Maskiell

Sidesault Festival kicked off with a roaring double bill on Wednesday the 8th of November. This experimental circus festival presented by Circus Oz is showcasing emerging and established circus artists in the wondrous Melba Speigeltent and features a range of independant artists from Melbourne and beyond. Casting Off by Australian troupe, A Good Catch and Unsuitable by Tumble Circus from Belfast certainly delivered the goods on the opening night.

Casting Off.jpg

Casting Off commenced with three performers sitting under a table all the while deliberating how to start their own show. These candid clowns soon took their audience on a ride as absurd as it was touching. The dialogue was fresh, carrying the show along with popping originality. The acrobatics, fast-paced and true to the Australian circus tradition, were pleasingly raw and rough around the edges.

Performers Debra Batton, Sharon Gruenert and Spenser Inwood clearly have a bond that only years of training circus could provide. Debra’s one-liners, planned or improvised were goldmines of laughter. She dropped pearls of nonsensical wisdom, including forgetting what the meaning of life was on top of a three-chair stack. Gruenert threw firey tantrums that could outdo a toddler amidst her air-piercing acrobatics. Finally, the charming Spenser Inwood effortlessly executed an aerial cradle routine, throwing and catching Sharon while jazz scat-singing melodiously.

Casting Off was relaxed, personal and fantastically inappropriate. Not surprising to see these Circus Oz performers pushing their art to new places here in Melbourne.

The ambiance of the Melba Spiegeltent is like no other venue. It’s a space whose magic has been collecting like dust since it was made in Belgium in 1910. The second show on the bill, Unsuitable reflected the facets of this mirrored tent well with its revue-type show consisting of a series of individual acts.

Unsuitable by Tumble Circus premiered at Sidesault Festival, and to say it was welcomed warmly would be an understatement. This full-length show commenced with a short vignette of three mischevieous clowns who liked to kick each others’ butts to psychtrance.

Ken Fanning, Tina Segner and Angelique Ross demonstrated their talent in a series of individual and group acts. All our favourite apparatus took the stage: trapeze, tissue, hula hoops and even a group juggling act with all performers in spangled leotards, platforms and blonde wigs.

Highlights include Tina’s tissue routine performed in motorcycle helmet, Angelique’s poetic tightwire act that told the story of a trip on the metro and featured some edible props, and Ken’s clowning act that proves the art of buffooning is very much alive. He really had the audience in the palm of his hand, eliciting high-pitched cackles with ease.

Sharp, edgy and hilarious: Tumble Circus’s Unsuitable is guaranteed to keep you engaged and laughing.

Supported by the City of Yarra and presented by Circus Oz, Sidesault Festival runs from the 8th to the 18th and is not to be missed. For tickets and more information: http://www.circusoz.com/the-spiegeltent/shows-at-the-melba.html

Image by Rob Blackburn


Fun but familiar

By Myron My

Circus Oz returns to Melbourne with But Wait…There’s More, fusing circus acts with consumerism and “infobesity”; the idea that everything is being commodified and the world is moving at faster speeds than before.

But Wait... There's More

The opening act of Lilikoi Kaos and her hoops was amazing. With hoop acts becoming a dime-a-dozen in recent circus productions, Kaos brought so much energy and fun to the routine it was impossible not to get swept up by the momentum. The program definitely does not lie when it compares her as a “mixture of Jessica Rabbit, Lucille Ball and Tank Girl”. Kaos has a unique talent that is great to watch on stage.

Similarly the enchanting balletic unicycle act by Kyle Raftery and April Dawson was mesmerising and the accompanying music created an almost whimsical environment. In fact, all the music, led by Ben Hendry and Ania Reynolds, was the one consistently superb factor throughout the show. Each act’s musical soundtrack was perfectly suited to build the mood and the suspense, and change the tone as needed.

Towards the end of last year, I saw Circus Oz’s Close to the Bone. Perhaps it was the more intimate and intense setting of the Melba Spiegeltent that allowed the acts to draw you in, but under the Big Top tent, many of the acts felt lacklustre and uninspiring. There were minimal wow moments and even though circus can be more than just “wow”, when you’re performing in this type of environment, on this type of stage, there needs to be plenty of dramatic climax and intensity.

This was more noticed in the second half of the shown which lacked the variety and the suspense needed to maintain my interest. The performers, such as the consistently amazing Sharon Gruenert, are clearly talented and accomplished in their fields, but as an audience member, there are only so many familiar flips and jumps that a show can have before it stops being interesting.

As a theme, the exploration of consumerism and information-overloading didn’t seem to work within the confines of circus, and despite Candy Bower‘s great voice, the singing numbers were out of place and broke the momentum of the acts. However, the set-ups for the bigger acts were great to watch as the whole ensemble playfully worked together to prepare the stage.

There is no denying that there are a number of highly skilled performers within the company and Circus Oz knows how to put on a good show: I’ve seen them do it before, numerous times. Unfortunately, But Wait…There’s More is not one of their better showings. For all the glitz and sparkle, I didn’t find much substance within the acts – which I guess is where you could argue society is trending with our obsessions on “infobeity” and consumerism.

Venue: Circus Oz Big Top, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne (between Federation Square and Batman Avenue).
Season: Until 12 July | Wed- Sat 7:30pm, Sat 1.30pm, Sun 3pm
Tickets: $22 – $95 (plus booking fees)
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or 136 100

Image by Rob Blackburn