The History of Circus Oz

Circus Oz was founded in 1978 as an amalgamation of two already successful Australian groups, Soapbox Circus and the New Circus. The principles that were the heart of the original Circus Oz philosophy are still reflected in our performances today: collective ownership and creation, gender equity, a uniquely Australian signature and team-work.

The founding members of Circus Oz loved the skills and tricks of traditional circus but wanted to make a new sort of show that a contemporary audience could relate to, adding elements of rock'n'roll, popular theatre and satire. They wanted it to be funny, irreverent and spectacular, a celebration of the group as a bunch of multi-skilled individual women and men, rather than a hierarchy of stars. Above all, they didn't want to take themselves too seriously. They sewed and welded together their own circus tent, got together a collection of old trucks and caravans and went on the road. Circus Oz was a fresh and original voice in circus and the company was immediately popular with Australian audiences. Within a few years, the company began to tour internationally, with visits to New Guinea and Europe.

Since that time Circus Oz has performed in 27 different countries, across five continents to over four million people. We have broken box office records at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and represented Australia at scores of international festivals. We have performed on 42nd Street, at the Tivoli Gardens, in a refugee camp in the West Bank, in Indigenous communities in the Australian desert and in a glass opera house in the Brazilian rainforest. Along the way we have translated parts of the show into scores of languages from Hindi and Japanese to Danish.

In the mid-1980s new contemporary circus and physical theatre troupes began to appear across the world, in the wake of Circus Oz. It was at this time that Circus Oz itself underwent a major skills development phase through intensive training with acrobats from China's Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe. Many of the skills learnt over the years from the Chinese, such as pole-climbing and hula-hoop, continue to flavour the show, albeit reinterpreted and presented in a distinctly Circus Oz style. Only one of the founding members still performs with the company, and yet, as new waves of people have joined Circus Oz over the years, they have embraced the company's co-operative style and philosophy and made it their own.

The overall tenor of the performance has remained consistent over the years. There are usually eleven to thirteen performers (normally with at least two specialised musicians) who present an intimate spectacle of unrelenting energy, humour, multi-skill playing, surreal imagery, grace and strength, fully integrated with a live and original musical score. Circus Oz continues at the forefront of international contemporary circus. Our performances today are as distinctive and dynamic as our touring program - from critically-acclaimed sell-out seasons on Broadway to successful tours of small Australian regional towns. The Circus Oz show is continuously revitalised with the injection of new ideas, skills and people.