News & Reviews
The Melba Spiegeltent - Herald Sun; Circus takes a stand
7th December 2014
CIRCUS Oz is having a surreal kind of experience. The highly nomadic artists have stopped moving and, for the first time, they will create, rehearse and perform a show all in one place for a hometown crowd only.
They’ll also be venturing into new circus territory with Close to the Bone, a show that deconstructs the company’s large-scale productions for the big-top and zooms in on raw skills.
Gone too is the family-friendly vibe and trademark buffoonery — well, most of it — in favour of a more provocative showcase in the intimate confines of the Melba Spiegeltent.
The 100-year-old Belgian mirror tent is now permanently based at the new Circus Oz headquarters in Collingwood, making it the first time the company can perform at its home.
Close to the Bone director Debra Batton says audiences can expect a very different Circus Oz experience.
“What I love about the Melba is the proximity of the audience to the performance,” she says. “When you’re so close to the performer, you do feel an intimacy with them. You can see the contraction of small muscles that you don’t notice in the bigger tent.
“Everybody’s just incredibly excited. It’s like we’ve been storing up these ideas and just allowing them to explode in the space now which is wonderful.”
The decision to hold Circus Oz’s first December show came from artistic director Mike Finch while the troupe was on a regional tour.
They began workshopping ideas that could really zing in the smaller space and show off a breadth of circus skills.
“It’s more geared towards an over 18s age group, rather than the family audience, which is a really interesting thing for all of us,” Batton says.
“Generally when we’re working we really hold that family audience in our minds and this show allows us to work with concepts that are a little more edgy, and that gives us a certain freedom in working with circus.”
Since it began 36 years ago, Circus Oz has performed to more than 3.5 million people in almost 30 countries. There will be an audience of just 250 in the Melba (compared with almost 1400 in the big top) who will see a range of traditional and contemporary circus acts and acrobatics using props such as poles, ropes, rings, a table and a piano.
Batton says though it’s a different experience, the Circus Oz live band will still perform and there’s no erasing the company’s sense of humour.
“We can’t help ourselves,” she says. “The irreverent always creeps in and almost undercuts ourselves and that’s something I love about Circus Oz. It never takes itself too seriously.”
Photographer: Rob Blackburn