Circus Oz: From the Ground Up

Canberra Theatre Centre. 3 Oct 2012

Featuring Jeremy, Ghenoa, Ruby, Chad, Dale, Flip, Mason, Hazel, Shane, Stevee and Luke and Bec, Carl and Ania on instrumentals

Can a circus be successful without performing animals or creepy surrealism? After seeing Circus Oz, I’m happy to report in the affirmative.

With a program jam packed with everything from the staple trapeze, tightrope, acrobatics, juggling and magic to more contemporary hip hop acts, air guitar and pendulum drumming, Circus Oz breathes new life into this rather tired art form, providing more than enough excitement and variety to titillate the most discerning audience.

With a robust Australian flavour and a splash of left-leaning political messages, this ultimate rag-tag troupe provide an unconventional and utterly congenial barefoot performance, doing what Aussies do best – relentlessly taking the piss out of themselves.

Even the head clown (and MC of the evening) Ghenoa strays from the norm; you won’t find any oversized shoes or red noses here, just an “Indie Genius Australian” break dancer wearing a plushie suit and hard hat and breaking down racial stereotypes – with the Canberra audience like putty in her hands.

It was also great to see gender stereotypes being given the flick, with a traditional division of roles nowhere to be seen – especially in the context of the circus’s motif.

Set against a building construction backdrop (complete with a 20 minute “smoko” in pace of interval), the ‘workers’ of the show set about conjuring up novel and colloquial ways of utilising their tools of the trade and their worksite to demonstrate their wide range of unique talents.

And while you won’t find quite the same sleek physical prowess of acts such as the Cirque du Soleil with Circus Oz, their gritty, unpretentious style is much more fun. You get a very authentic sense of each person’s character as well as the organic and collaborative nature in which From the Ground Up was seemingly conspired.

Effortlessly funny, there is just as much comic gold to be found in this performance as gravity defying feats of strength. Standout laughs of the evening were Flip’s Fantaysia Fitness inline skating workout routine, complete with leotard wedgie, which provoked more than a few squeals from patrons, while the prize for best gimmick would be for Hazel’s impressive foot juggling.

Just as much an active part of the show was the live Circus Oz band who, with collective eyes of a hawk, monitored every move to produce a cool and eclectic soundtrack that was perfectly in sync with the performances on centre stage.

The Circus Oz crew certainly know how to show spectators a feel-good time, carving themselves out their own unique identity characterised by the promotion of tolerance, diversity and equality. From the Ground Up is guaranteed to uplift and will no doubt inspire a few to try out some feats of strength of their own!

Deborah Hawke

When: 3 to 7 Oct
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre