Circus Oz ‘From the Ground Up’ – Review

Ensemble Photo: Rob Blackburn
Photo: Rob Blackburn

This is the sort of show that makes you feel proud to be an Australian!

What a fabulous set of circus skills these artists possess, but also what a uniquely Australian manner in which to present the skills.

The laconic, dry humour; the strong element of self-parody; It’s just us – Australians. Brilliantly clever yet daggily funny with it! Or so Circus Oz would woo us into thinking of ourselves. Flattery got them everywhere!

There was a buzz of anticipation in the theatre as the audience settled in. It was delightful to see so many family groups and children grace the gorgeous Edwardian His Majesty’s Theatre. While the house lights were still up members of the Circus Oz troupe busied themselves mock-painting the walls, performing the odd balancing trick and climbing over members of the audience.

The set and theme is taken from the famous photographic image of construction workers in New York sitting on a girder high above Manhattan. Given this, the inventive use of a life-size girder was an essential prop and thoroughly exploited. The opening scenario was an elevated, enormously long grand piano, which was lowered whilst the pianist performed. The cover was removed revealing the afore-mentioned girder and the tricks began in earnest.

The temptation is to list all these marvellous acts in detail. Largely, that is what they deserve.  However I will just give you a taste of From the Ground Up’s impeccable menu of death-defying skills.

The best and hippest “Welcome to country” acknowledgement I have ever witnessed; the titling girder used as a platform for amazing gymnastics; a heart-in-mouth, swaying high-rise pole routine; an extraordinary foot juggling display incorporating firstly multiple balls and secondly a table; not to overlook the slickest of bands who interfaced superbly with the artists. You could see them eying each other throughout the show, working the cues for sound effects and appropriate musical grabs.

All the artists are dressed as shabbily attired construction workers, all multi-skilled; some moved to accompany other performers as part of the band. Auditions for Circus Oz must be gruelling in the extreme.

A lovely running gag ran through the show, introduced early on by two clownish characters who were utterly inept at their work. Selecting a young girl from the front row they attempted a simple card trick. After many props had fallen from their sleeves the illusion was abandoned, however this did not deter them from trying to produce her card of choice at regular intervals throughout the rest of the performance.

There were jugglers. There were tight rope walkers (at precarious angles suspended mid-air above the elevated girder). There was wonderful hoop work, a fabulous strong man balancing act, and a teeter trick which escalated to balancing on a board above five moving paint cans, whilst juggling.

The show finished with some extraordinary elevation work using a see-saw to propel the protagonists into the stratosphere where they somersaulted to audience cheers.

CircusOz2013_mark_teeterboardThroughout the performance each of the artists projected a cheeky, tongue-in-cheek character. The cowboy, who morphed into a delicious kangaroo for story time; the spunky, mullet-haired guy; “designated eye-candy for the show”; the charming, top-knotted hoop juggler – to name but a few.

The musical accompaniment lifts this show into another realm. As I have noted, the band is perfectly attuned to the individual performances and equally notable as a stand-alone act, with a very clever four piece horn routine.

Almost immediately the audience was engaged and confident enough to hoot, whistle and holler encouragement and approval.

To borrow from the words of Mr Kite (Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band):  “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”


His Majesty’s Theatre

Thurs 29th August 7.30pm

Mandurah Performing Arts Centre 6 & 7 September

Bunbury Performing Arts Centre 11 September

Geraldton Performing Arts Centre15 September

Bookings: Book in person at Venue Box office or Ticketek agencies | 1300 795 012 or

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