Circus Oz presents dizzying displays of acrobatics and agility
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Circus Oz presents dizzying displays of acrobatics and agility

Model Citizens. Circus Oz. Concept and direction by Rob Tannion. Musical direction by Ania Reynolds. Designed by Michael Baxter. Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. Until August 18. Bookings canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 62752700.

An aerial act in Circus Oz's <i>Model Citizens</i>.

An aerial act in Circus Oz's Model Citizens.Credit:Rob Blackburn

In his first show with Circus Oz, recently appointed Artistic Director Rob Tannion has brushed his company in a fresh new gloss. The familiar larrikinism of the youthful ensemble is still there. So is the raw energy, the risk taking and the daring, challenging feats of strength and skill. In Model Citizens however, Tannion takes the company to new heights of dizzying displays of acrobatics and agility.

The usual opening night announcements to turn off mobile phones, desist from photography and acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, the original custodians of the land are followed by a stream of rules and regulations. A call to conformity, the requisite of all model citizens in suburbia, is evident in Laurel Frank’s uniform costuming of the characters at the start of the show.

Lachlan Sukroo (upside down) and other cast members of <i>Model Citizens</i> by Circus Oz.

Lachlan Sukroo (upside down) and other cast members of Model Citizens by Circus Oz.Credit:Rob Blackburn

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Suddenly Captain Ruin (aka Mitch Jones) appears, sporting a hot pink Mohawk, tattooed and wearing vivid lycra. Forced to adopt the name of Michael, his identity is set to be taken away by the ensemble who hurl him into a larger than life environment of giant pegs, enormous scissors, a huge bobby pin and mammoth underpants. The individual is dwarfed by the paraphernalia of a society, which as Freyja Edney sings is “courteous, understanding and tolerant of diversity but not in my backyard."

Paradoxically, the circus with all its rules is where the artist can be free, unencumbered by conventional expectation or imposed conformity. In Model Citizens the symbols of suburbia provide the inspiration to debunk the myths surrounding modern society and delight and thrill the audience.

A balancing act with Lachlan Sukroo as the base in <i>Model Citizens</i> by Circus Oz.

A balancing act with Lachlan Sukroo as the base in Model Citizens by Circus Oz.Credit:Rob Blackburn

A pole-balancing routine on the huge bobby pin amazes. Giant pegs become springboards to acrobatic dexterity. Consumerism is lampooned in a knife throwing routine into a large fridge and Mitch Jones stands aloof on a tower deck of bankcards. Dressed as sheep in underwear, the company gambol across the auditorium, herded by the trusty sheepdog, and on stage, drummer Jeremy Hopkins sings Once a jolly Snagman  to the tune of Waltzing Matilda as he worships his Weber barbecue. In a large martini glass, one of the performers twirls parasols with the feet as Hopkins sings a song of freedom. Every routine becomes an act of freedom, a defiant confrontation with conformity.

Fire-eating, juggling, acrobatics, hula hooping, human pyramids, balancing, and the clowning antics of sheep performing the cygnets' dance from Swan Lake culminate in a rope ladder/ monkey bar finale, accompanied by the haunting sound of a Middle Eastern strain. Could it be the final casting-off of an old Australia for a new multiculturalism?

Whatever its intent, Circus Oz slips smoothly and adroitly into a new sophistication. Model Citizens is a model for an innovative and exciting future for Australia’s brightest and most original exponent of the circus arts.