Thursday, September 24, 2015


Circus Oz - But Wait There's More.

Directed by Mike Finch. Designed by Felipe Reynolds. Costumes Laurel Frank Lighting by Paul Jackson. Sound Engineer David Swinton. Circus Oz. Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. Until September 26.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

During the past thirty seven years, Circus Oz has performed in twenty seven countries to four million people. I remember seeing a performance in Elder Park on the banks of Adelaide’s River Torrens by the Adelaide Festival Centre. The fledgling, enthusiastic, agile and energetic troupe already showed the trademark qualities of strength, stamina and flexibility that underpinned their acrobatic and gymnastic talents. However, what set them apart and continues to set them apart from traditional circuses, such as the Ashton’s Circus or the highly sophisticated and spectacular Cirque de Soleil is their unaffected humour,  heartwarming appeal and totally unpretentious attitude to their art. But don’t be fooled. The simple grass-roots troupe that I saw in the early Eighties have developed into a brilliantly inventive, highly skilled, dexterous and imaginative troupe of circus performers, whose appeal lies not only in their technical expertise, although this is formidable, but also in their brilliant imagination and inventive, fresh and new approach to the magical world of circus.

After a successful tour of America and Canada, Circus Oz returns to Australia and the Canberra Theatre with But Wait There’s More, a tantalizing, top-notch bargain bursting show-bag of specials, including  comical clowning, body balancing, aerial acrobatics, eye-popping illusions, hoop-leaping gymnastics and gravity defying unicycling. Throughout a brilliant energy charged band of musicians upped the tempo, elevated the excitement and strung along the moments of suspense.

Circus celebrates the art of surprise and suspense. Audiences crane forward or sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation. Young children bounce up and down in their seats or sit transfixed by the sheer skill of the performer. They are all waiting for the mistake – the fall, the trip, the missed trapeze, the dropped juggling baton. Danger shadows the artist, scorning the interminable hours of practice, the inevitable mistakes and the risks. Circus Oz knows the dangers. They take the risks and they colour the familiar circus acts with an original, fun-loving showmanship that amazes and delights. Mistakes, on the very rare occasions that they may occur, are acknowledged and the act is repeated with flair, invariably succeeding on the second attempt

Throughout the performance,  members of the troupe exude an infectious sense of fun. As the audience enters, they are met by artists, dancing in the aisles, clambering over the seats, greeting and warming up the audience. Singer/Emcee, Candy Bowers, draws the audience in with her effervescent enthusiasm. Matt Wilson picks up the narration and turns on the second half with his show stopping But Wait There’s More, surrounded by the ensemble in bar code costumes and clown heads. Everything in this production shines with originality. Ironically, the show is set within a monolithic arch from a Victorian adventure into wild, primitive lands. Wilson, with his handlebar moustache and body clinging singlet and tights recalls the acrobatics of the Victorian age.  The humour, however, is contemporary and good-natured cheekinesss

Too many acts to mention or moments to applaud, it is worth mentioning the breath-taking unicycle act, while balancing a performer in the arms. Or the clever clown routine with boxes, the hoop-diving routines and the smoke ring leaping sequence.  The baton juggling is a feat of incredible precision and Olivia Porter’s ball balancing and juggling routine is miraculously  skilled. 

Circus Oz, after lampooning the hard-sell harangue of the hungry retailer, close their show with a stylish, sculptural balancing composition that atmospherically morphs into a curtain call. It is a gentle conclusion to a stunning and startling show of phenomenal expertise and vibrant theatricality.  There is no glossy artifice; no manipulative spectacle, no sideshow trickery. The appeal of But Wait There’s More is its unadorned  talent, its ingenious theatrical imagination and its ebullient sense of fun. You will be amazed, delighted and filled with the joy of child-like wonder. Don’t miss this world-renowned and unique circus troupe when they come to town.