Left – Three High Plus Two. Cover – Mitch Jones. Photos – Rob Blackburn
Birrarung Marr is covered in a layer of frosty magic and the proud peaks of the Big Top are hoiked high once again: it must be time for Circus Oz. And it’s all so super fresh with a brand new artistic director, Rob Tannion, lashings of their trademark satirical, sardonic commentary on Australian society, virtually all new ensemble (except for moustachioed stalwart Matt Wilson) and uber slick costume and set design ablaze in all shades of blue.
Model Citizens addresses the idea of conformity, taking a timely gander at Australian identity. As ASRC’s Kon Karapanagiotidis summed up beautifully in his moving speech at the end: autistic children, Indigenous people, queer and refugees are model citizens.
“I dont mind diversity…as long as it’s not in my own back yard,” smirks Freyja Edney, plinking away on a ukulele.
Giant domestic items make for glorious props on steroids: scissors to dive through, a clothes peg becomes a teeter board and a mammoth pair of underpants a mid-air platform to hang from. Luke Ha erects a four storey stack of giant credit cards to teeter on top and take a selfie, until someone pulls the precarious debt out from underneath him. In one particularly captivating scene, Jarred Dewey, who has such new-romantic, androgynous poise, contorts and balances on stage with giant, steaming irons for feet.
There are plenty of comic elements – shuffling, bleating sheep led by a very Cosplay, gothic looking Bo Peep, a tongue in cheek song celebrating the male, white, negative-gearing privilege of a man behind his Weber, and someone sports a sandwich board proclaiming “Adani’s Char Coal Chicken” on the front – “The End is Thigh” on the back.
However, in contrast to previous years there are no central comic ringleaders/clowns – such as the dry quips of Candy Bowers or Dale Woodbridge-Brown. The lithe and colourful Mitch Jones aka Captain Ruin brings a little bit of carnie magic but sometimes lacks the comedic spark that’s needed to play the host and tie the whole thing together.
But while there are no stand-out characters, the overall strength of the ensemble and a more avant guard visual aesthetic is what sells Model Citizens – Big Top with a tinge of fringe.
Circus Oz presents
Director Rob Tannion
Venue: Circus Oz Big Top | Birrarung Marr, Melbourne (between Federation Square and Batman Avenue)
Dates: 20 June – 16 July 2017
Tickets: $30 – $95