Friday, August 27, 2004

Circus Oz, Royal Festival Hall

This decent Australian circus troupe have taken over the somewhat incongruous surrounds of the royal festival hall for their summertime stint. Given tickets and overhearing that it was the Jerry Sadowitz of circus, I’d expected some kind of adult circus – perhaps with dominatrix and lewd gymnastics – but the gaggle of noisy kids soon put paid to that theory. What we got was a fairly traditional, even bare-bones circus in an inappropriate theatrical environment. This resulted in a lack of the atmosphere fostered by a big top and a somewhat limited view for those of us stuck high up in the balcony, which was not helped by their propensity for doing much of the act dimly lit for one reason or another.

Led by some rather plain-spoken Australians, who introduced things much as they might have told you which bus to get on, things cavorted on amiably but lacked any sense of menace – the sort of thing Papa Lazarus would bring, for instance. Also missing was any sort of story element to most of the set pieces. Certainly people are getting blasé in this day and age and having just spent a week watching gymnastics at the Olympics probably didn’t help but a bit of human interest would have gone a long way.

The opening scene, with the clown walking about on the ceiling was great and where the circus used its imagination it really excelled. After a first act which slightly dragged the second started with acrobats whose simple expedience of dressing up as cockatoos made the whole thing seem infinitely more worthwhile. The contortionist provided a bit of plot as we followed his attempt to get his doubled-jointed body through two tennis rackets.

Having said that, the human cannonball set was rather spoiled by a rather cack-handed political head-graft, references to the coalition of the willing and the razor wire of oppression a bit pointless. They got the second row up on stage for that one. A couple of them were wearing suits. “Is that the right get-up for the circus” cackled the ring-mistress, but it was the RFH.

Australians appear to slip into two categories, the boorish idiots and the PC loons (I know this isn’t true, but bear with me). These lot were definitely in the PC category, for which I suppose we should be grateful, although the dedication at the last to “diversity, friendship and human kindness” went some way over the top. Not a big top, of course.