As I sat in the audience of Circus Oz’s But Wait…There’s More, I felt as though I was missing something. The uproarious laughter all around me seemed to belie the fact that I wasn’t finding much of it funny. I was utterly impressed by the ‘traditional’ circus acts – the acrobatics, the trapeze, the hoops – but every wonderful act seemed to be undermined by irritating characters and a lack of cohesion.
First, let’s go through the wonderful acts. I’m a sucker for hoola-hoop/unicycle/trapeze-weilding performers completing death-defying stunts and clad in gorgeous vaudevillian costumes. And on this front, But Wait…There’s More does not disappoint. April Bowers and Kyle Raftery’s acro-balance routine atop a unicycle is a particular highlight, as is Nathan Kell’s wonderfully choreographed acrobatics routine and the long, highly entertaining trapeze sequence. The I-just-can’t-look excitement delivered in style is outstanding…I just wish there was more of it.
The show is peppered with hit-and-miss comedy, singing and dancing, mostly from ringmaster (ringmistress?) Candy Bowers and head clown Matt Wilson. These routines are all just fine, but tend to slow the pace between the more involved circus acts. The thing that lets the show – and the incredibly talented cast – down the most, however, are the cheap political gags that often see performers stand centre-stage, delivering poorly-timed one-liners and waving their hands around as though demanding “you should laugh at us now. Or else.” Special mention needs to be given, however, to Olivia Porter, whose sublime characterization and comic timing (and impressive foot juggling routine) injected life and excitement to even the most poorly-formed of skits.
According to the programme, But Wait…There’s More chronicles “a ‘commercialism’ virus, which infects the show with an outbreak of barcoded clowns, which must be battled and slain, or at least reconciled and incorporated before order can be restored.” It’s true that the clowns are the villains of the show; the significance of their existence, however, especially in relation to the classic-look circus performers, is never fully realized. The show tries to tackle everything from race and gender relations to reality television and consumerism; Circus Oz’s politics is at the forefront, as always, but there is no strong thread that ties everything together in a coherent message. It is a show crying out for a dramaturg, which is a shame because with a little help it could be brilliant.
The inflatable set by Felipe Reynolds wonderfully evokes a turn-of-the-century sideshow; combined with Laurel Frank’s sensational costumes – 1920s circus crossed with vaudeville chic and a hint of steampunk – the aesthetic of the show is stunning. Paul Jackson’s lighting is, as always, outstanding: it is the sort of assured design that goes relatively unnoticed, but lifts the entire mood of the show and blends seamlessly with everything around it. Similarly, the music underpinning the entire performance is evocative and varied; Music
Director Ania Reynolds leads a brilliant band through a score that encompasses everything from rap to ragtime. And finally, congratulations to stage manager Sarah Platts and her team for pulling it all off.
But Wait…There’s More is a solid show: the talent and dedication of the performers is reason enough to see it. It is vibrant, varied, and the perfect way to inject some fun into the dreary Melbourne winter.