News & Reviews
Melbourne - Model Citizens Review - The Australian
13th July 2017
The Big Top gets a shot of charisma
Rob Tannion’s first show as Circus Oz director has been touring the east coast in proscenium arch theatres for three months. To mark the company’s return to headquarters — the Big Top at Birrarung Marr — the piece has been expanded to fill the larger space, and the ensemble beefed up from 10 to 15.
Model Citizens is colourful, well choreographed and doesn’t have a dull second. It’s one of the company’s most child-friendly shows in its 40-year history, but the Looney Tunes playfulness and vintage props (giant clothes pegs, safety pins and cotton reels) have nostalgic resonance for adults.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of design in circus. Even the most sluggardly acts can be defibrillated. Three years ago, Circus Oz acrobats dived through smoke rings and wide-screen TVs instead of boring old hoops. It was a real through-the-looking-glass moment in a mundane show.
In Model Citizens, a short stack of diving hoops sits idle, waiting for its moment. Eventually, the hoops are revealed as the handles of giant scissors, like giant tailoring shears — as off-limits and adults-only to kids as grandad’s shifter spanner. Slyly, they’re not even used to jump through. Sometimes, it’s the boxes you don’t tick that really count. Clothes pegs are used as springboards and ladders, parallel climbing poles are shaped into a huge safety pin, the slack wire is a clothesline and a giant pair of undies is used as a hammock. Small inconsistencies in design and flow can probably be attributed to the show’s expansion. It’s a mighty shame, for example, that when Steph Mouat does her terrific hand-balancing act that her canes weren’t made to resemble mushroom-shaped darning tools — or even drawing pins — in line with the narrative arc. Fine as they are, a couple of other acts look grafted on too. But this is hair-splitting.
Jarred Dewey is as flexible as a blowy man, the kind you find outside caryards. Freyja Edney is as serene as she is powerful. Atlas-strong, Edney can twirl hoops into soap bubbles or make them hover around her like the light rings in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Luke Ha’s sticky feet on the vertical poles leave us slack-jawed. Jeremy Hopkins’s ode to the barbecue (he sings “worship my Weber” to the tune of Waltzing Matilda) is gloriously clever.
The entire ensemble has charisma and skill to burn. But I reckon it’s Alex Weibel Weibel’s act — on slack rope and violin — that I’ll remember in my dotage.
Chris Boyd, The Australian
10:19AM June 25, 2017