MODEL CITIZENS: The latest wonderful production from Circus Oz, the first production for the company by new artistic director Rob Tannion and celebrating 40 marvellous years, started the 2018 Sydney Festival with a bang.
Under the Big Top at Parramatta , Circus OZ bring us a series of circus vignettes of breathtaking various acts including fire eating , juggling , tumbling , hula hooping , tightrope walking , exquisite aerial acts and much , much more, It also includes witty humour ( eg ‘ Worship my Weber ‘ in Act 2 a glorious rewriting of Waltzing Matilda– (“And he sang as he washed off the grease and lit the mozzie coil, who’ll come and worship my Weber with me?”) as sung by Jeremy Hopkins ) and the cast as very cute sheep and a sheepdog . Model Citizens examines gender roles and thoughtfully looks at the refugee experience and explores current Australian hypocrisy.
The set is a Wonderland dreamlike like creation that challenges our sense of scale , perspective and concepts of normality . There is a giant vertical safety pin, a huge oversized clothes peg ,as a springboard , extra large scissors ,( providing hoops to tumble through) , a giant glowing cotton reel , aerial undies and a house of oversized collapsing credit cards full of debt ( Mitch Jones in an incredible balancing act ) to mention just a few things.
A safety pin becomes the poles for the Chinese Pole walking and balancing act . In the first half the dominant colour is blue, in the second half , red . The amazing cast’s finely honed circus skills are used in unconventional ways. There is tightly choreographed ensemble work interwoven with some stunning , daredevil dangerous solos . Model Citizens sets out to explore what it really means to be a model citizen in today’s ‘model kit’ society.
Musical theatre and dance elements are included producing contemporary takes on traditional circus acts – eg juggling, which here is somewhat abstract and rather more similar to a contemporary dance piece where the cast member just also happens to be expertly controlling several juggling balls.In the first half one of the sheep becomes an aerialist .In her glittering white outfit she is like a delicate , floating snowflake.
Mitch Jones (aka Captain Ruin ) with his pink punk hairdo and over 60 tattoos is amazing with his fire eating , knife throwing and hanging upside down Houdini like escape trick. His original maverick character finds himself d himself in a Wonderland like world where the inhabitants come alive only to move blank-faced and mannequin-like in imposing uniformity.
There is a Hot Irons slinky intimate entwining duet for Jarred Dewey and Annalise Moore using extra large irons as weights for the feet as they balance.
Freyja Edney was cheered to the rafters with her astonishing display of multiple hula hooping .She also impresses with the satirical the Intolerance Song with biting witty lyrics accompanied by ukele (“I tolerate diversity, just not in my backyard”. Jake Silvestro had us mesmerized with the Cyr wheel hypnotically spinning.
Alex Weibel Weibel dazzles in a jaw dropping display of tightrope walking , violin playing and visually stunning spinning slack ropes .Another breathtaking segment was The Bridge where a rope ladder is stretched high and the cast perform a trapeze like act of twists and catches.
Under Music Director Ania Reynolds, the quite eclectic score complements the action and has a relentless energy at times full of boisterous fun .Spirited surf numbers blend with darker moodier sections and also include gentler, more lyrical segments.
MODEL CITIZENS skilfully raises thoughtful issues, but doesn’t force answers down our throats and enchants without being too annoyingly pedantic.
Running time – allow 2 hours 20 minutes (roughly) including one interval
MODEL CITIZENS runs at the Circus OZ big top Prince Alfred Square , the cnr of Church St and Market St Parramatta 2 -28 January 2018