BWW Reviews: Contortion, Cavorting and Conscience at Circus Oz's BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE
First disclosure: Circus acts make me nervous. I cannot watch people flying and catching on a trapeze without my own safety-net filter of hands pressed over eyes. My discomfort levels increase in accordance with the rising complexity of the tricks and turns happening in the ring or above me - that is to say, exponentially, until the end of any particular act usually brings with it as much relief that it's over, as appreciation for the awesome skills on display.
Second disclosure: I was not familiar with Circus Oz until tonight. Unlike many in the audience, I didn't come to the big top with childhood memories of the contortion, cavorting, and conscience this self-described mob offers. The latter of these three offerings is the surprise of the night for me. I like my art to come with a little dose of anarchy, and Circus Oz pokes just the right amount of finger at the establishment, whether through the show's theme of consumerism, and the human obsession with the pursuit of 'stuff' (More!) - or through the signs and quips that pop up through-out the night. No Rights Turn says one such sign, and my eye keeps coming back to it all night.
With so much to say, you want to hear every word - but there are times when the message gets lost. This would be my only criticism of the night: certain songs and performances lack clarity, and I find myself straining to catch the words and the meaning. The frustration is heightened here, because you sense that you just missed the punch line - and that you would have liked it.
Visually, there are no such issues. With design by Filipe Reynolds, the Circus Oz big top sets a scene that is equal parts boardwalk vaudeville, smoke-tinged jazz club, and old-school, sawdust in the ring traveling tent. Costumes and lighting enhance these elements, and the performers themselves bring it all to life with exuberance, humour - and boundary-defying talent. It comes as no surprise to learn that Deb Batton, this year's director and producer, is a past Circus Oz performer, herself. Every performer and circus family member seems capable of doing every thing.
There are highlights, no doubt. From the poignancy of the unicycle duet, to the cheeky joy of Lilikoi Kaos' hula-hooping, and the fist pump feeling of watching strong women lifting and catching as much as the men, there is more than enough to make up for any general circus 'nervousness' I feel going into the show.
Because there is also something beautiful and extraordinary and odd about what these Circus Oz performers can do with their bodies, the way this challenges our notions of what the human body is capable of. It is a vivid reminder that we should all strive to do ... more. It's not 'stuff' in the end. The more is what we're all capable of, no matter who we are, or where we come from. As individuals, as a family - and as a country, too.
This part of Circus Oz's message tonight, I heard loud and clear.
Circus Oz - BUT WAIT ... THERE'S MORE
Big Top Birrarung Marr, Melbourne until 13 July
For Tickets and information click here.
Image Credit: Rob Blackburn