A new circus-theatre production for audiences of all ages is set to wow Melbourne this month in the form of Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show.
Australia’s Circa Contemporary circus company team up with Academy Award®-winning UK animation studio, Aardman, to form a partnership in performance combining animation, visuals, sound, physical theatre in a very unusual way, making it very much not just a show for kids. (Ardaman are the team behind Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit, and of course, Shaun the Sheep.)
Circa Contemporary Circus is one of the world’s leading performance companies and, for artistic director, Benjamin Knapton, the fabulous coupling with multi-award winning and globally renowned animation studio, Aardman, is both complementary and exciting.
“Aardman and Circa share some key qualities in our work – most pertinent to this show is the physicality and humour,” says Knapton “It’s been such a delight to get to know the Shaun the Sheep characters in such detail and transfer that to an acrobatic context that is filled with life, humour and amazing physicality.”
Knapton says audiences can expect to see their favourite characters from Shaun the Sheep, be amazed by incredible acrobatics and just enjoy an awesome and exciting time in the theatre!
Since 2004, from its base in Brisbane, Circa has toured the world – performing in 40 countries to over 1.5 million people. Knapton acknowledges he is fortunate to be working with an incredible team of people – from the ensemble of acrobats to the producers to the marketing teams. “Combining a great team on such a challenging and exciting project is awesome,” he says.
Knapton became involved with the idea of helping to create an innovative and clever re-telling of a children’s staple quite early on and was quickly tasked with watching every single episode of Shaun the Sheep ever made! “Aside from taking a long time to do, that has given me a great understanding of the show and informed a lot of my input on the stage version,” he says.
Knapton’s job is to make sure the show is the best it can be every time it is staged. He acknowledges there are challenges everyday. Mostly, though, his work is about people. “…making sure everyone knows what we are doing and why… and I ask a bunch of annoying questions.”
Knapton brings a wealth of experience to his Circa journey having done a lot of acting at school and moving into directing when he was at uni. Since then he has had a healthy balance of directing, and producing his own work. “I’d be happy to change careers but I just enjoy the art making too much – there’s something special and strange about having a bunch of people in the same room sharing live performance,” he says.
Early in his career, Knapton studied and spent considerable time with Canadian company Ex Machina and their Artistic Director Robert Lepage. “I love their way of devising work and constant stage innovation,” he says. “Both of these things I also love about our work at Circa, where I have worked closely with Circa’s Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz for 10 years. No doubt Circa and Yaron and also been a huge influence on my work.”
The dark COVID year impacted many in the performing arts arena but Knapton says he has been very fortunate. “There was a period of time where rehearsals moved to Zoom but we quickly got the acrobats back in physical contact. Once we had that heaps of new work was created which meant this year has been filled with presenting new work around the country.”
The show found a lucky escape, though, when COVID closed Brisbane’s borders, explains Knapton. “We were presenting in Cairns when Brisbane had a Covid cluster. Lucky for us, the government and health departments in Queensland got things under control in a classy and speedy manner.”
Commencing at the Regent Theatre on Wednesday 14 April during the school holiday period, and direct from its world premiere season in Brisbane, Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show promises an inventive and clever live show that the whole family can enjoy on different levels.
“The response from audiences so far has been awesome,” says Knapton. “It’s really a show for the whole family. If you want a great night in the theatre filled with acrobatics, physical comedy and delightful theatricality come see it!”
Venue: Regent Theatre
Season: From 14 April 2021
Tickets: On sale from Friday 5 March at www.shaunthesheepcircus.com.au