Review: Precarious

Circus Oz’ Precarious has audiences smiling minutes in, gasping minutes later and applauding for many minutes more

By Joana Simmons

2018 marks Circus Oz’ 40th anniversary and if their new show Precarious is anything to go by, the company is far from a mid-life crisis and much closer to getting better and better with age. Set in the newly located big top in the Royal Botanic Gardens, this high-class show features a cast of multi-skilled circus artists and musicians. I was smiling minutes in, gasping minutes later and applauding for many minutes more.

The story of the show is simple: set in an imagined world, a bureaucracy called The Ministry of Seed control nature like a group of bumbling, tumbling fools. Times are precarious, good seeds are scarce, humans have a big impact on the environment, in fact they have the power to make everything come toppling down (literally).

The opening number features ambient sounds, which are looped to create layers and layers within this quirky world, as the cast deconstructs a giant tower of jenga blocks painted like a forest. From the get go their energy as an ensemble is a strong force, as they tumble, roll, balance, throw and catch each other fluidly. The conflict arises when one special seed goes missing and the apparatus and methods that all the performers used to get it back still have me in awe.

Artistic Director Rob Tannion and co-director Kate Fryer must have one incredible dynamic to produce another outstanding production for Circus Oz. I was fortunate enough to review last year’s Model Citizens which was this killer combo’s debut. The circus cast of Tara Silcock, Dylan Singh, Tania Cervantes Chamorro, Jake Silvestro, Jon Bonaventura, Emily Gare and Lachlan Sukroo each had standout moments across their apparatuses and in their supporting roles.

Peformers Jake Silvestro, Lachlan Sukroo and Tania Cervantes Chamorro. Photograph by Rob Blackburn.

Those who had me on the edge of my seat were Jake Silvestro in his rue cyr act full with smoky haze, Emily Gare with her balance blocks, Tania Cervantes Chamorro’s aerial slings and Lachlan Sukroo on something I have never seen before: swinging Chinese pole. Sukroo was like a monkey, only much more elegant. I found Jon Bonaventura to be a beautiful dancer and his hand balancing act featured incredible flexibility and was so well choreographed. Characterwise, all performers were absorbed in the world they created. I didn’t see any facial expressions that gave away the hours of training and effort that must go into their craft.

The comic duo of Sukroo and Silcock carried much of the story. The overall show stealer though was Tara Silcock. From doing hula hoops whilst swinging in the air, to every small and hilarious facial expression – I couldn’t keep my eyes off her – she was equal parts fearless and charismatic.

One of my favourite parts of this show was the live music. Musical director Jeremy Hopkins has created and performed a joyfully dynamic soundtrack with a huge range. There was not one point where he was not drumming, singing, looping, clapping, creating voice overs and who knows what else. Hopkins was supported by Sophia Exiner on keys, synth and vocals and together the pair created a full-scale sound that was perfectly suited to each act.

Other parts of the production that deserve congratulations are Laurel Frank’s costume design, Maddy Seach’s lighting design, Michael Baxter’s set and prop design and Andrew Dyson rigging that had him climbing to the very heights of the big top, only to slide down a ladder minutes later.

Circus Oz is made up of “creative maveriks, ground-breakers and risk takers.” Circus is far bigger than the canvas walls – it’s what makes us want to play again, delight in the gravity defying and marvel at magic. When work-life balance feels like the thing that is most precariously on the edge, escaping to a show like this, in a stunning setting, is an absolute joy. Buy a ticket, or twenty, as Precarious is highly enjoyable for everyone.

Precarious is being performed 26 June – 15 July at the Circus Oz Big Top situated in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Victoria. Tickets can be puchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 665 915.

For information about audio described performances, Auslan interpreted performances and companion cards, take a look at this access ticket webpage.

Photographs: Rob Blackburn