News & Reviews
The Melba Spiegeltent - Herald Sun; Circus Review: Close to the Bone, Circus Oz
15th December 2014
Close to the Bone is an apt name for this intimate Circus Oz offering in the Melba Spiegeltent.
It has a totally different feel to the exaggerated larrikinism of their family shows. Artists-in-residence Jo-Ann Lancaster and Simon Yates favour stripping circus back to essential elements and are known for their unconventional bare-bones aesthetic when it comes to acrobatics.
There’s a strong sense of that here, with the ensemble, dressed in various shades of grungy black forming a motley band (led by musical director Ania Reynolds). Amazingly, they attempt a plethora of serious and wacky instruments, most of which are suitably battered and old time.
Even those without much musical prowess at least play shoes or rubber chicken drumsticks. It’s all very egalitarian and up close, albeit with a manic and dark energy.
The small stage can barely contain the acts, which run the gamut from a glimmer of an idea to fully realised routines. They’re all pretty abrasive – in a good way that suits the ethos — and the artists are fully committed to proceedings.
Veteran Oz performer Matt Wilson does some of his classic chair balancing shtick with a nuddy twist. Lilikoi Kaos’s hula hoop routine takes an aggressive edge, and with the added presence of Dale Woodbridge-Brown and Olivia Porter’s pedantic rubber ball juggling in various spots throughout the tent it’s very OCD.
Add in Stomp-esque sequences playing an orchestra of dilapidated metal objects and ensemble jostling with everyone trying to sabotage Reynolds and Kyle Raftery’s piano duo and there’s no shortage of mayhem.
While the tone of Close to the Bone diverges from Circus Oz’s familiar fare, refreshingly, it’s recaptures some of the company’s best skills that have been missing in recent large-scale shows.
Blending live music and physicality into an organic whole, successful transitioning between the individual and the group and an honest sense of commitment to the action — no matter how ridiculous or under-worked it may be — have all returned.
Directed by Debra Batton and made in only three weeks, Close to the Bone proves the adage that a quick game’s a good game.
Photographer: Rob Blackburn