Oz inject a sense of ‘ockerness’ into the circus

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The word ‘circus’ comes from the Latin for ‘circle’, namely because such entertaining productions began by being hosted in a ring or, if you will, ‘in the round’. Audiences would be seated in a circular fashion around all the action thereby making it necessary for a lot of action to be going on, so that every audience member gets to see something fascinating.

So it came as a surprise to see that Circus Oz presented their latest extravaganza on a stage at His Majesty’s Theatre with the audience obediently seated in typical theatrical rows. This lent a rather 2D element to an event that could have been even more in-your-face.

Alas, that’s not the only difference Circus Oz possess compared to traditional circus troupes. The troupe’s name alone will reveal it’s an all-Australian production, but Oz goes one further in injecting a certain ockerism into its show. There’s backslapping and galah-like laughing, even obvious Aussie icons – like eskies and beachballs – thrown into the mix to lend the show a unique antipodean aesthetic.

Conceived 35 years ago, Circus Oz has matured into a collective of extremely talented acrobats and dancers, tumbling and soaring across the stage with gusto and guts.

Despite incongruous semantics, there are some traditional elements of circus trickery in the Oz mix – from juggling pins, to fitting five acrobats on a moving bicycle, to your typical magic shows (albeit with the piss taken out of the craft). But where Circus Oz really amazes, is with its daring acrobatics and original dance delivery, an example of the former being aerialists hanging from a high bar with their toes only; and for the latter, two indigenous members of the troupe performing a mix of groove and traditional Aboriginal dancing.

This is the first time I’ve seen this troupe and I must say they impressed – if only for their clever combination of various artforms, and of course that main ‘ocker’ point of difference.

Above: Circus Oz photographed by Rob Blackburn.