News & Reviews
Wollongong, Australia - Illawarra Mercury; The Show Must Go On... Time
15th September 2015
The latest show from Circus Oz, But Wait… There’s More, features a 12-person cast of musicians acrobats, unicyclists, trapeze artists and jugglers and looks at the idea of information overload in the modern world. Glen Humphries spoke with Musical Director Ania Reynolds.
The Circus Oz theatre show is very unusual – it starts on time.
While most stage shows start five or ten minutes late, Circus Oz aims to start at the time it says on the ticket.
The company’s website actually warns people that the show starts “promptly” and people who turn up late may face a wait before being able to get to their seats.
As well as rewarding the punctual theatregoer Circus Oz Musical Director Ania Reynolds says the show needs to run to a strict schedule.
“The show goes for two hours with an interval and during that time there are a lot of mechanics that need to go on like props being set and rigging needing to be set at certain times,” Reynolds says.
“in the way that running to schedule becomes necessary so that everything can happen in the right order and we have enough time to preset all the requisite props for the show.”
But Reynolds says there’s also a benefit to the audience members in turning up a head of time.
“It’s always nice to come early because the performers are well and truly present in the auditorium and surroundings before the show starts,” she says.
“It’s worthwhile to come early so you can have a bit of the pre-show experience too.”
Illawarra theatregoers will get the chance to enjoy that pre-show experience when the latest Circus Oz show hits Wollongong later this month.
Called But Wait… There’s More, the 12-person cast of musicians, acrobats, unicyclists, trapeze artists and jugglers have taken the tour through Australia and North America since its debut in 2014.
The title – and the performance itself – is a reference to the information overload of the modern age, the idea that there no longer seems to be a point marked ‘enough’.
“Popular culture, plugged-in digital culture, compels us to be constantly upgrading, seeking more, collecting more, owning more,” Reynolds says.
“There’s this compulsion not to be happy with what you’ve got or just focus on one thing, but to be constantly seeking more.
“There are a couple of acts in the show that allude to that idea of ‘have more stuff, it will make you feel better’.”
She said there were also several performances that were very stripped-back to simple human movements; a reference to the idea that, sometimes, “all the bells and whistles” that accompany today’s culture aren’t needed. That sometimes, less is more.
Circus Oz is very much a trailblazer in the world of contemporary circus. It started in 1978, which means it predates the iconic Cirque du Soliel by six years. The Australian show began when most people’s idea of “circus” included animals (FYI there are none in Circus Oz) and, in more than 30 years since, it has managed to change quite a few opinions.
“Back when it started I don’t know that there were anywhere near the number of professional circus schools that there are in the world today,” Reynolds says.
“Now you find circus is becoming a much more popular art form in that category of contemporary art as opposed to traditional circus.
“People have become so familiar with seeing similar tricks so I think the storytelling element, being able to see personalities, becomes really important.”
Reynolds has been with Circus Oz since 2010 but has also performed with similar groups, as well as in more traditional musical theatre shows.
For her, the circus set-up offers a freedom that those scripted musicals and plays simply can’t match.
“I think the appeal is the sense of spontaneity and the unknown in circus,” she says.
“With some tricks, they will change from night to night, so with the music you’re responding to what the action is on stage.
“That allows for a nice element of improvisation. When you’re doing shows that have a two-year run that’s really important for keeping them fresh.
“The other thing I like about it is there’s enormous room for interplay between the acrobats and us on the band stage as musicians.
“We’re not just there reading off a score sheet every night. We’re responding to the other people on stage.”
Responding to each other to shape the show doesn’t just happen on stage, it happens long before the first performance, Reynolds says. Rather than the show being shaped by one writer, everyone has a say.
“That’s a big part of the Circus Oz process,” she says.
“The creative process has always been that the show and the acts in the show are often created by those in the ensemble.
“So rather than being like a play or a musical theatre performance, where there’s a script and everyone sticks to it and learns their lines and cues, this work is created by what people bring – their various skills, characters and personalities.
“It’s really nice, you end up with a work that’s informed by the people who are in it.”
Photographer: Rob Blackburn