Sunday, July 19, 2015

Circus Under My Bed

Circus Under My Bed by Flying Fruit Fly Circus. Artistic director Jodie Farrugia. Writer Sebastien Pasche. At Canberra Theatre Centre, July 16-18, 2015.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
July 16

Fruit Flies are a major source of irritation to Australian agriculture, so it’s not surprising that the Flying Fruit Fly Circus began in the Riverland fruit growing region along the River Murray at Albury-Wodonga on the New South Wales / Victoria border.  In 1979, influenced by the success of Circus Oz, the Murray River Performing Group, mainly graduates from Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts Drama School, introduced circus skills for children as part of their community street theatre activities.

By 1987 The Flying Fruit Fly Circus grew into a Victorian Government Education Department Circus School, using public school facilities in Wodonga – the only circus school in Australia for primary/secondary school students.  By 1995 Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne established the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA), offering at first a Diploma course, and nowadays a range of courses up to a 3-year Bachelor Degree.

Canberra has a long history of children’s circus.  I may even claim some kudos here, when my Year 8 students took their self-devised circus to a local primary school in 1975.  But the real claim to fame belongs to Warehouse Circus, which began here in 1990.  See  and .

So maybe Fruit Flies is a good example of a typical Australian ironic view of life, just as Circus Under My Bed humorously challenges the authority of Celeste’s mother.  We only hear her voice demanding that Celeste pack her bag to leave in the morning.  I was not sure what this meant: would this be a fun holiday trip, or could it be about leaving home?  Was Celeste not too keen to get the packing done just because it was a chore, or because she suspected some dire consequence?

Photos: Daniel Bound

Celeste fulfils her mother’s requirements but without her mother knowing her secret.  Her bed turns into a safety mattress for flying gymnastic cavorting, hanging from the ceiling is a twin silk drop for aerial work, furniture turns into balancing stands, rings appear for twirling and others for aerial spinning, and the ringmaster – almost tiny compared to the strong man – even succeeds in finding Celeste’s favourite book.  There are no real animals in circus nowadays, of course, but there were plenty of sheep and even their well-trained sheep dog, all of whom jumped over, under and through all sorts of fences, in Celeste’s dream circus.

Though I am used to seeing all kinds of modern circus with all kinds of socially correct themes, I’m glad that the Flying Fruit Flies – aged from 9 to 19 – could show their training in a show which was just entirely entertaining without need for further implications.  It really was designed as a children’s show for children (and me) to enjoy.  And I guess even Celeste’s mother was happy in the end.

And I’m sure NICA will receive some well-justified applications before long.

I would like to acknowledge the (unwitting) assistance of Michelle Potter, whose review is at