Model Citizens

Katie Lavers

Model Citizens is imaginative, adventurous, and physically innovative circus.
Model Citizens

Image: Circus Oz's Model Citizens at Sydney Festival 2018. Photo (c) Rob Blackburn.

Model Citizens, the new show from Circus Oz, delves into the world of everyday objects drawn from Australian suburbia. Objects (such as irons, clothes pegs, safety pins, scissors and clothes lines) are utilised in a playful and engaging way – Circus Oz changes the scale of the objects so that they become different pieces of circus apparatus.

With its amusing physical clowning with large-scale objects Model Citizens is a perfect show for children, but is also engaging for adults with its surreal and inventive investigation of domesticity and suburban values.

Under the assured guidance and direction of the new Circus Oz Artistic Director, Rob Tannion, this investigation of Australian suburban objects creates a rich seam of innovative physical material to explore. The circus performers bring their traditional circus skills to bear on these newly created pieces of apparatus but are also stretched and challenged to develop new responses, and to invent new physical vocabulary.

These pieces of new circus apparatus, created  by Production Designer Michael Baxter also offer poetic and metaphorical resonances that ring true with  the audience. There were audible gasps, as the reformed punk character played by Mitch Jones (attempting to bring his life into line with society’s expectations) enters into an extended balancing act which entails balancing on increasingly risky and wobbling stacks of large scale credit cards which create higher and more risky platforms for him to stand on. All goes well until a creditor withdraws a card at the bottom of the  stack, and the whole structure comes crashing down, bringing the performer with it.

Another new apparatus included large scale clothes pegs used as spring-loaded launch pads to initiate jumps and acrobatics, and a large scale safety pin which became two Chinese poles that dismantled as the pin came undone.

One particular highlight was a smooth and sensual dance by the superbly flexible performer Jarred Dewey dancing with the stunning hand-balancer Annalise More. Dewey danced with a giant iron attached to each of his feet which inhibited his ability to move. The metaphors inherent in this duo were rich and complex.

Dewey’s trapeze act  which he performed on a conventional trapeze but wearing a pair of shocking pink high heels, was a stunner which challenged conventional gender stereotypes in a playful way and was received with prolonged whooping by the audience.

Gender stereotypes were also challenged in the group sections from the female performers with the breathtakingly determined and strong Freja Edney acting as base for a three high women’s pyramid, whilst also supporting two other female performers – in effect supporting and carrying four women. Whooping and cheering greeted this amazing vision of Circus Oz strong women.

Freja Edney’s hoop act was also a revelation – precise, virtuoso and humourous.

Another stand out moment was when ropewalker Alex Weiner managed to play virtuoso violin while negotiating a veritable tangle of slack ropes.

The physical material throughout the show was inventive and surprising, revealing the dance and physical theatre background of Rob Tannion, particularly in the attention to physical detail and transitions.

All the performers shine, and nowhere is this more visible than in the final section with the rope ladder rigged high across the stage in which the trust, team spirit, daring and élan of the whole group  are shown to great effect.

Model Citizens is an imaginative, adventurous, and exciting circus show. 

5 stars out of 5 

Model Citizens
Circus Oz
Sydney Festival
5–28 January 2018
Spaghetti Circus Big Top, Prince Alfred Square, Parramatta
Artistic Direction: Rob Tannion
Production Design Michael Baxter
Costume Design: Laurel Frank
Lighting Design: Sian James-Holland
Musical Director: Ania Reynolds
Assistant Director: Kate Fryer
Circus Performers: Tania Cervantes Chamorro, Rose Chalker McGann, Jarred Dewey, Freyja Edney, Jeremy Hopkins, Mitch Jones, Annalise Moore, Ania Reynolds, Tara Silcock, Jake Silvestro, Lachlan Sukroo, Alex Weibel Weibel

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Dr. Katie Lavers is a writer, director, producer and researcher based in Sydney.