Produced by Circus Oz
Directer Rob Tannion
Prince Alfred Square, Parramatta until January 28
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
There’s nothing quite like the circus is there? And the formats have changed since the exclusion of animal acts, so the emphasis is entirely on the human skills, the theming the and music.
Having not seen a Circus Oz production in the past 30 years, I was curious about the current offering. Model Citizens is part of the Sydney Festival and the Big Top at Prince Alfred Square in Parramatta contains an elevated thrust stage rather being played in the round. It was more like the inside of a theatre than a tent. No sawdust floors here.
There’s so much in this politically correct show, starting with Acknowledgement of Country, a signing person and acrobatics by the full cast.
The set is comprised of craft items including a giant peg that is a springboard and a giant safety pin doubles as parallel poles. There are other giant objects such as y-front underpants that abduct a naked man and a martini glass that facilitates foot parasol juggling. Then you have the knife-throwing where the backboard is a fridge.
Houdini’s upside-down straight jacket escape is executed in what looks like pyjamas, W.C. Field’s cigar box juggle has been upgraded to ten cigar boxes and the slack rope walk is performed while playing a violin.
The multiple hula hoop routine is brilliant; much of it reminded me of martial arts patterns. At some times the hoops could have been butterfly swords or nunchaku. Didn’t think I’d ever describe a hula hoop act as “breathtaking”, and it’s a highlight of the show. Giant credit cards are the basis the house of cards balancing act that holds everyone in suspense. The Dance of the Little Swans is performed by sheep instead and the New Zealand remark goes down well. The electric band pumps out the music to add to the experience.
Of concern is the trend of theatrical productions asking for charity donations, with one of the performers stepping forward after the curtain call and asking audience members to donate to the preferred charity. Unless it’s specifically a charity event, people don’t attend entertainment for that reason, and it entirely breaks the atmosphere. Instead of walking out elatedly after a brilliant performance, everyone left after being reminded of the plight of asylum seekers. Muriel’s Wedding The Musical did the same with another charity.
After forty years, Circus Oz is still the foremost training ground for young Australian circus artists and performances continue to evoke gasps of amazement from audiences of all ages. This is a circus without pretentiousness, is not overly produced and, by its own definition, is uniquely Australian. If you have or haven’t seen a Circus Oz production, Model Citizens will impress and astound you.