News & Reviews
★★★★½ – Review – Wunderage – The Age
24th June 2019
Circus Oz delivers high times with Wunderage
Review by Cameron Woodhead, The Age
Wunderage is outgoing artistic director of Circus Oz Rob Tannion’s final show with the company, and he leaves on a definitive high.
The show is among other things a tribute to the tightwire, with no less than three suspended over the cavernous space of the Meat Market in North Melbourne, and it teeters with consummate balance on a vertiginous precipice of danger and wonder.
One of the things that makes the show so involving, strangely enough, is the lack of seats. This is circus as moveable feast. Like No Fit State’s Bianco at the Perth Festival in 2014, the audience is corralled around the space to boggle at various acts in an informal atmosphere – creating an instant sense of community that also solves the problem of kids not being able to see: they can simply squirm their way to the front of the audience as needed.
There’s an antique quality to the aesthetic that sits between the archetypes of commedia dell’ arte and a doll’s house come to life. The costumes suggest ballerinas and sailors and angels, and it isn’t long before they’re swept up in aerial magic, as if they were toys pulled from the ground by an enormous child.
You’re bound to witness marvels you haven’t seen before. Seen a bike being ridden over a highwire? How about an acrobat tiptoeing along one in ballet shoes, en pointe? Or in high heels? Or traversing one backwards with someone sitting on their head?
Wunderage is replete with jaw-dropping feats and if the strength, athleticism and balance of the artists is astonishing, so too is the degree to which they act in concert to create a dreamlike, topsy-turvy wonderland where gravity seems bent to their will.
Paul Lim’s lighting adds to the shadowy sense of carnival, and live music plays a pivotal part. Grant Arthur and Bonnie Stewart’s ambient alt-folk stylings have a hypnotic effect, and the music can be visually impressive: at one point, the soundtrack features a zither so huge it requires two players and a wheelbarrow to transport it about.
But it’s the diverse ensemble of acrobats that really takes your breath away. They fit together like pieces of a jigsaw: the monkey-like agility of Skip Walker-Milne, the stupendous strength of David Trappes, the smiling poise and artistry of co-director Chelsea McGuffin, among others. All hold themselves aloft in a celebration of the high wire you won’t want to miss.