Circus OzIt feels strange walking along the edge of Sydney Harbour, the glistening lights of Luna Park sparkling ephemerally on the far side of the water, knowing that I’m going to see the circus at the Opera House. Before the 1979 fire in the Ghost Train, which haunts Sydney to this day, an event such as this most certainly would have been performed within the one space in Sydney that was reserved ‘just for fun’. In 1979 just the idea of a circus performing in the Opera Theatre of the Opera House would have been preposterous… but it’s not 1979 anymore and today Circus Oz performs in Australia’s most ostentatious big top.

But then Circus Oz isn’t just any old circus; they were founded in 1978 when the Soapbox and New Circuses merged and have been dazzling audiences the world over with their innovative and succinctly Australian takes on the circus form. What sets Circus Oz aside from other new circuses, such as Cirque du Soleil, is their down to earth, Australian colloquial style that makes the performance all the more accessible. Best of all, this accessibility doesn’t come at the cost of the magic, there were moments where I wished the little girl standing in front of me, enchanted by the show, would sit down so I could see (although I didn’t have the heart to ask her).

The performers bring a great range of talents to share from; Mel Fyfe the strong woman, to Jess Love who is a hula hoop extraordinaire, to Scott Hones ‘Bowie-esque’ glass ball manipulation (if you don’t get the reference then go watch Jim Henson’s The Labrynth, you’ll thank me afterwards), to Christa Hughes nightingale voice that ties the performance together. And the performers really are sharing, rather than showing off. The show has a wonderfully conversational tone and this allows the performers to open an informal discourse in which they introduce social and cultural concerns that may have escaped the notice of the children enthralled by the magic of the circus, but resounded with the adults in the audience.

And then there is the music. Forget those pre-recorded soundtracks because Circus Oz delivers the real deal. Live on stage, musicians performing the soundtrack as you watch and incorporating the performance of the music into the circus acts before your eyes. This culminated perfectly in the final scene before intermission called ‘Orchestra’ where all the performers came together to play several arrangements while clowning and eventually bringing the house down. No scene could have been more fitting for a circus performance in the Opera House… my only complaint being that this scene outshone the pyrotechnical finale for the night.

In a world where science has explained the magic out of illusion, where political double-speak has become the norm and where Big Brother is more commonly associated with television mind rot than a visionary novel, Laughing At Gravity gave me a glimpse of hope. For adults it is a step back in time, I found myself glassy eyed gazing at the performer in wonder and unconsciously clapping throughout the performance… laughing, smiling… really enjoying myself. For children, well I can’t speak from that sensibility anymore, but what I can say is turn off the television, throw away the play station and nag your parents until they take you down to the Opera House to see Circus Oz because this is entertainment.

Circus Oz
Laughing At Gravity

Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Saturday 26 May to Saturday 9 June
Opening Night:
Saturday, 26 May 7.30pm
Wed to Sun 7.30pm; Matinees: Sat & Sun 1.30pm, Wed 6 June 11am
Adults $75 / $65 / $59, Conc $65 / $55 / $49, Children U15 $45 / $35 / $29
Family Package – Pay for 2 adults & one child, and second child free
9250 7777 or

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