When a circus performance opens with the ring master, a female Torres Strait Islander in construction gear (Ghenoa Gela), ripping down the Union Jack and hijacking a piano, you’re in for a treat. Circus Oz has been wowing audiences with ‘ridiculous debacles’ (so says the program) for over 30 years. And From the Ground Up
is Oz at their best. The ensemble cast makes the best use of every prop, from hand drill to a giant iron beam and spatular to basketball, to build a better Australia.
The thing we love about the mob at Circus Oz is how they create laughs with agenda. They’re a circus with soul, using their talents to prove points. Last year’s incredible production Steam Powered
had gender equality at its core, with Circus Oz's signature politics layered throughout. This time round, From the Ground Up
takes on the equality of our whole nation. Using a very sweet fruit salad metaphor for multiculturalism, even the kids in the back row (in between asking "Is he dead?" about every performer who landed a slap stick blow to the head) knew what the show meant. Going home knowing even if they were bananas and the kids down the street were strawberries, nobody should hope for a fruit smoothie, it should be salad all the way. Closing the show with a cover of Paul Kelly’s ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’, the mob sealed the deal for anyone having doubts as to the point of all this jumping and tumbling.
That being said, From the Ground Up
isn’t two hours of angry left fists being shaken at a picture of the Queen. The company's message for change is beautifully woven into some of the best circus you will see on this great southern land. Not only tongue-in-cheek – such as the lyrics of the opening song by the Ring Master ("I wanna be the Prime Minister, so freaking bad...") - Circus Oz is jaw droppingly impressive (Chad Albinger falls down a pole the height of the big top, only to catch himself centimetres from the dusty floor) and hilarious (Flip Kammerer's g-string lycra leotard wearing, rollerblade wearing fitness instructor Fantasia Fitness is a crowd favourite. So much so that all performers stopped at one moment to ask an audience member to "please breath", she was laughing so uncontrollably loud). It’s an incredibly entertaining production, that makes all audience members – apples and oranges alike – laugh like crazy and think a little more sanely.
PHOTOS & WORDS:
Laura May Grogan