COURTESY CIRCUS OZ
From bicycle stunts to swinging trapeze acts and more, Circus Oz is a show with attitude.
Australian wizardry: Circus Oz
Circus Oz makes its Honolulu premiere with six shows
"Community, Diversity, Humanity, Hilarity."
Those four words represent the breadth of colorful vision that is Circus Oz. The Australian troupe celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. According to artistic director Mike Finch, calling from his home in Melbourne, Circus Oz predates Cirque du Soleil by about six years. "We were the first company to name itself as a circus, plus we got rid of the animals."
Compared with the more rarefied and arty approach of the popular Montreal-based franchise, Finch says Circus Oz's background is based on the groundswell of "the whole juggling and street performance stuff of late '70s that also included rock 'n' roll and standup comedy."
"Laughing at Gravity" Tour
On stage: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Place: Hawaii Theatre
Tickets: $20 to $60, with $5 discounts for students, military and seniors
This circus basically has more attitude.
Circus Oz's current tour is called "Laughing at Gravity," and the multitalented 14-member troupe will make its Honolulu premiere with a six-show engagement at Hawaii Theatre, starting tomorrow night and running through the weekend.
Considering that the influential Circus Oz broke out of its country's boundaries right from the get-go -- touring Europe and even stopping in nearby Papua New Guinea -- it's a surprise that it has never traveled to the islands. (After its shows here, the company travels to New York to play out the rest of 2006 at the New Victory Theatre in Times Square, a trek made every three years.)
Acrobats, trapeze artists, jugglers, tightrope walkers and BMX riders will populate the stage, all acts motivated by live music that ranges from "funk, classical, rock 'n' roll and techno," Finch said. "It's a vibrant soundtrack, and I like the different music because I basically have a short attention span."
COURTESY CIRCUS OZ
The 14-member troupe of Circus Oz will be headed to New York after its Honolulu debut.
THAT ATTENTION was tested during the interview, punctuated by the occasional -- and alarmingly loud -- buzz of his cell phone and the cries of his infant son, but Finch carried on like the trouper he is.
"Circus Oz is, first and foremost, funny and irreverent. We tend to have trouble taking ourselves too seriously. Most of the time, when an act has a sense of formality, we try to pull the rug out from under them. There's only 14 performers on stage putting on a show that should be by 50 to 60 people. So you will see the same performer play different characters. One person would, say, be an aerialist the first time out, then come back playing the saxophone and later be riding a bike.
"It's the notion of crazy nonstop energy, and the show works for all ages. ... There's the color, spectacle and movement that the kids will take to, plus there's humor for the adults. For instance, there's one fantastic act that includes acrobatics, tumbling, all with an electric guitar. And the performers are dressed in school uniforms -- some adults might get the reference to Angus Young of AC/DC and Christina Amphlette of the Divinyls," both similarly dressed Aussie rock stars.
Finch himself has an acrobatic and juggling background, and served an internship with Circus Oz in his younger days. "Being there was a big inspiration when I set up another company. Part of my training work experience with Circus Oz was observing and helping, so when I went back to my own work, I used a lot of the stuff I learned. It was a different concept, with eight of us, living on top of a double-deck bus, and playing small towns by parking in the middle of town."
Finch would return to Circus Oz years later when he answered an advertisement seeking an artistic director. In the nine years he's served in that capacity, he aims to ensure that "the evolution of company and show is constant. Each time we have a rehearsal period, we change one or two of the acts so that over the course of the last two years, the show has changed completely. That way, the show is always strong and allows for constant creative change."
COURTESY CIRCUS OZ
From clowns clipped in clothespins, to bicycle stunts and more, Circus Oz is a show with attitude.
Circus Oz makes it a point to use only Australian performers, and "once in the company, we divide the work depending on their skills and ability. ... So whether their individual strength is as a juggler or a BMX rider, etc., we devise the show around them. It ends up very empowering for the performers."