Unbridled madcaps

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 1996, 12:00am

This show by Circus Oz started with tremendous promise: a young female pilot - a sort of Tin Tin character - crash lands her cartoon-style plane in a strange land. Evil clowns appear, and bewilder her with their antics. It was a storyline full of potential, but as the show progressed, the narrative thread began to get more lost than its protagonist.

There were some excellent ideas - a cello on wheels like a pram, a slippery pole, a band playing appropriately weird and energetic music.

But - and perhaps this is inevitable in a democratically organised troupe - with a firmer director's hand, it could have been a stronger show.

The star was a clown with a top-knot in his hair and a tremendous amount of energy: his plunge head-first down a pole, catching himself by his ankles just a few centimetres from the ground, had the audience gasping.

The highlight of the evening was a wonderful piece where life was lived upside down. An inspired example of suspension of disbelief.

Through a clever use of ropes and harnesses - mostly invisible - our heroine walked on the ceiling, sat down for an inverted tea party with an old chap in a hat, who managed to play upside-down mini-golf. At one point the musicians appeared and began to play their instruments with their feet firmly on the ceiling. A new slant on fiddlers on the roof.

It had the degree of high wackiness that Circus Oz is known for. Here, though, as with much of the whole show, it 'fell down' a little on the directing: the script could have been crazier, quicker; we should have been howling with laughter.

One scene - where the acrobats were diving through stacked hoops in clever syncopation - was a great non-animal alternative to trained dogs or lions. But this should have been the grand finale: four performers doing headstands, legs stretched like an ensemble 'V' as the final diver plunged over all of them.

The actual last scene, of boats suspended over the stage, was charming, but was rather bewildering as an ending. This cut-down version of Australia's premier circus group neither had the slick sophistication of Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, nor the delicious anarchy of the French Archaos. But it was good-humoured family entertainment and the children in the audience loved it.

Circus Oz: Aqua Profonda Queen Elizabeth Stadium. Last performance today at 1.30pm, $60-$180 Urbtix