|“For gorsake, stop laughing: this is serious!”|
Reviewed by Frank McKone
I have nothing to say about Circus Oz except that it’s just brilliant to see the irreverence, social conscience, performance skills, exciting acts and a sense of a community working together on stage and including us in the audience.
However biassed this may be, I have to say that where Cirque du Soleil is a spectacular arty construct, French cool style, From the Ground Up is no-bullshit Australian culture, which grabs our audience by the throat and makes us cheer the daredevils on, laugh, and be made aware of social justice all at once. This is the art of Circus Oz.
“For gorsake, stop laughing: this is serious!” is the caption of the famous cartoon by Stan Cross originally published 29 July, 1933. An excellent reproduction is at http://www3.slv.vic.gov.au/latrobejournal/issue/latrobe-65/fig-latrobe-65-053a.html , showing two blokes high up on scaffolding. One is holding on for dear life to a girder, while the other, as he falls off, has grabbed his mate’s legs and pulled down his trousers. From the Ground Up is about the building site of the new Circus Oz home base in Melbourne, now under construction. The circus acts take place on flying girders, dogman’s ropes and almost anything else you might find on a building site, but the site foreman nowadays is Ghenoa Gela, a Torres Strait Islander from Rockhampton, in character as Indie G (an Indie Genius Australian) – aka Fruit Ninja.
We laughed as we were divided into apples and mangoes by Indie G, but understood the serious message when the imagery grew into Australia as a fruit salad – each fruit different but all tasting great together. The word ‘multiculturalism’ didn’t need to be spoken.
At http://www.circusoz.com/digitalAssets/1479_1234416397068_The%20History%20of%20Circus%20Oz.pdf you can read Jon Hawkes’ history. My memories of the early shows agree entirely with Hawkes’ comment that “although Circus Oz may be one of the few surviving remnants of the seventies, the group continues to demonstrate that the values espoused then retain all their vigour and relevance now.”
Indeed, they do.