Circus Oz are celebrating their 40th year of physics-defying, brain-bending, and all-too-flexible performance with a bang – a Rock Bang, to be precise.
Hosted by Otto and Astrid Rot (Daniel Tobias and Clare Bartholomew) – the sibling duo known as Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots) – Circus Oz brings their lives to the stage, from childhood through to the present, all in the form of a totally heartfelt but extremely absurd rock opera. Otto and Astrid have had difficult lives, losing their parents at a young age to either an unfortunate lion attack or a country train track (nobody can really be sure), and growing up with only each other to rely on… and occasionally six other extremely fit, flexible, circus performers are there as well.
Throughout the stages of this rock opera, there are a number of fantastic elements to overwhelm the crowd. Die Roten Punkte are a rock band, visually themed after the glam performers of the 80s, and taking musical inspiration from every punk rock band you could possibly think of. This means that, of course, the performance has a brilliant soundtrack, composed in part by Otto and Astrid themselves, and performed onstage by the siblings, as well as a small group of Circus Oz musicians, and by the end of it even the acrobats are taking part.
The second element is, of course, the costuming, done by a team far too large to mention, but extremely impressively. Every moment is different, and while there are of course threads of punk rock plaid and fishnet shirts throughout the performance, the costumes are integral in setting the scene – including the bakery where Astrid makes meager funds to protect her brother by day, and party hard in Berlin’s city centre by night.
The third, and of course most important element, are the Circus Oz acrobats themselves – Alyssa Moore, April Dawson, Kyle Raftery, Robbie Curtis, Matt Wilson, and Rockie Stone. Each performer comes from a different background and brings multiple skills to the table. The amount of trust each person must have in the others is staggering, and certainly brought an enormous sense of awe to the crowd. Of particular note was an aerial hoop performance, where the audience were silent with tension, completely enraptured by the display of skill and precision from the acrobat onstage.
In addition to high-flying leaps of faith and other truly death-defying feats, Rock Bang has a huge personality. Otto and Astrid themselves practically leap off the stage due to their manic characterisations, and indeed at one point they do end up in the audience, snuggling up to ‘trees’ that are perhaps a little more friendly than the duo realise. The acrobats remain playful with their art, not only are they skilled physically but they of course have fun with it – most impressively their comfort with what turned out to be a mass orgy (really kind of only makes sense in context), and the fact that they could take a trick failure in their stride and roll out of it into the next act. Sure, juggling sacks ended up across the stage, but if the audience were laughing, it didn’t matter.
Non-traditionally, Rock Bang included a number of brief but beautiful puppet show interludes, which merged fantastically with some of the more sombre songs to tell the story of the suffering Otto and Astrid had experienced.
In its parts, Rock Bang sounds utterly ridiculous. A German punk rock duo, occasionally hitting their very best Eurovision poses, surrounded by hilariously flexible acrobats who keep flinging each other across the stage, backed up by a number of very serious and skilled musicians. The only thing missing was a stagehand climbing up the thirty foot scaffolding to shift the aerial hoop around during the middle of the performance… oh no, they had that too.
But as a whole, Rock Bang was a glorious evening of surreal enjoyment; toe-tapping music enmeshed with an entire lifetime of training to swing from a twenty foot high rope in a very tight outfit.
Rock on, Otto and Astrid. Rock on.