Left – Otto Rot. Cover – Dean Matters, Rockie Stone, April Dawson, Kyle Raftery, Astrid Rot, Alyssa Moore, Matt Wilson, Tamara Murphy. Photos – Mark Turner
Circus Oz Rock Bang with Astrid and Otto is the kind of circus I would run away with. In this circus, sex, drugs, and rock n roll, coexists with the ‘straight edge’ lifestyle. As orphaned siblings Astrid represents the former, and Otto the latter. It’s their familial connection and their shared passion for rock (in all its variations) that binds them. The comedic narrative of their story is told through a mixture of music, circus performance, stage craft and hilarious re-enactments, you will leave “rock banging” out of the theatre.
The opening act hits you with a full force of rock music, fused with high energy acrobats, who perform suitably attired in punk rock costumes. After introductions Astrid leads the narrative of Astrid and Otto aka The Red Dots. The story begins in a small German village where we learn how Astrid and Otto became orphaned as young children. Astrid has an engaging stage presence, she is a strong feminine character amplified by her German accent, and unique style. She is the true older sibling who dominates not only her brother but the cast. Otto is the younger sibling who has a charming innocence, Ottos boyish attachment to his toy lion provides for ongoing comic amusement throughout the performance.
Newly orphaned Astrid and Otto flee their hometown when distant relatives claim guardianship. The previously childless relatives are stereotypically uncaring of the orphans. The characters make for a riotous dance sequence involving the beloved pet dog, initiating the need for Astrid and Otto to run away. The circus elements interplay, and enhance the story of Astrid and Otto. At times they add a magical element to the show. After escaping the cruel relatives when all seems lost for Astrid and Otto, they find themselves alone in the woods. The audiences focus is turned to a solitary circus performer. Spotlighted and hanging from a high ring the acrobat performs her sequence. Her choreography on the rings appears effortless. She comes to Otto like a vision in the moonlight, providing the inspiration to make it through the dark forest, and on to Berlin.
Once in Berlin the siblings survive as squatters. As primary carer Astrid works in a bakery, the scene is set with a baker working his dough in an engaging juggling act which is perfectly timed to the music. In the drum of living Astrid and Otto make it to a David Bowie concert. Exhilarated and inspired they commit that they will form their own band. Astrid has light fingers, and acquires a junior set of drums, and an electric Flying V guitar, and The Red Dots are formed. They enjoy a whirlwind success claiming title of ‘best band in the world’, drawing from a diversity of musical influences, the song “I am a Lion” is characteristic of electronic pioneers, Kraftwerk.
There’s a mischievous parallel between The Red Dots and the American rock duo Jack White and Meg White of The White Stripes. Both consist of a female drummer and male guitarist, both use the colours red, white and black as an identifier of their brand. The characters Astrid and Otto are siblings, likewise The White Stripes claimed to be brother and sister, (although evidence suggest they were married and divorced). I mention the connections because frankly I was initially sceptical of the striking similarities between the bands. But ultimately imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Astrid and Otto through a mixture of comedic flair, and musicianship, own their brand with their fusion of German punk and endearing personalities. In their world they deserve the title of ‘best band in the world’.
Recently I listened to an interview with the British comedian Catherine Tate, who felt the mark of great live comedy was when an audience could walk out of a show laughing whilst reciting phrases from the show. I found myself doing exactly that walking out of Rock Bang, singing to my date for the night “I will be your lion now” – okay you had to be there, and I suggest you do.
Circus Oz presents
Venue: Merlyn Theatre | The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank VIC
Dates: 15 – 25 November 2018
Tickets: $40 – $59
Bookings: malthousetheatre.com.au | 03 9685 5111