Summer is the season of circus. Spiegeltents and big tops spring up around the city. At the start of the year, when still rubbing the exhaustion and excess of the festive season from our eyes, we flock in droves to the canvas interiors and the makeshift homes of the entertainment gypsies – circus folk and musicians to find the timeless relief of persistence or iconic tricks and trickery.

Circus Oz, now in it’s 35 year (alongside several of Australia’s arts companies– Griffin Theatre Company for example) demonstrates a defiance of any rumour Australians might have of its artistic/cultural pessimism/cringe. After all longevity is in and of itself a remarkable feat inspiring awe and respect.

Even more remarkable is the sustainable, socially conscious, outward facing company of Circus Oz. It is one thing to start and develop a company with a view of being financially sustainable – it is quite another to build into the company model a focus on community, social change, and a respect and celebration of diversity. There is much to admire in this long view, deep-reaching philosophical basis for a live performing arts company. Merely for the fact that the medium of live performance itself is transitory, often transient – the long lasting traces of live performance are in many ways un-measurable. And I’m not talking audience numbers, or artists engaged or ticket sales – I’m talking about that deep and nourishing intellectual and emotional invigoration that comes from a transcendent moment.

A moment that stops and demands our full attention.

Makes us take stock, re-direct, be reassured, inspired and face the world with kindness or generosity or compassion or curiosity once again.

Cranked Up is my first Circus Oz experience and I am ashamed to say it’s taken me so long to join the ranks of fans (along side her Excellency the Governor General Quentin Bryce).

Beyond the grand spectacle of the big top – complete with brash-voiced program spruikers, popcorn and merch – the central set piece a large structural beam. Themed in construction zone costumes and props, there’s a lot about this show which feels as irreverent and rough’n’tumble as a contruction site – chunky, robust, well worn like a pair of well worn steel caps. This is not high glitz Moscow animal circus, it’s the opposite: scrappy, cheeky larrikin human circus and I for one delight in such an aesthetic.

Here in Cranked Up, the sublime is found in the everyday – the transformation of everyday objects – PVC pipes, tables, wheelbarrows and construction materials are added into the into the jumble tumble/juggle of a traveling circus. Foot juggling of a table? Tick! Trapeze with only a few crash mats below? Tick! Four Layers of PVC pipe on which to balance and juggle? Tick! A woman who can lift a man onto her shoulders? Tick! A sturdy irreverence to the notion of Aussie masculine identity? Tick!

A must see family circus experience with a heart of gold – and a national and international track record that is the envy of many performing arts companies – with the added focus of providing funds to the community ($300 K in the last year to the refugee program), providing meaningful pathways for artists through outreach programs, employing a diverse range of performers, honouring the land it’s traditional owners, demonstrating gender equality, ethnic diversity. Any one of these aspects of the company or production is worth praise – but with the added bonus of quality, traditional tricks with a sense of humour and an easy personable Aussie charm (in all it’s manifestations) – it’s easy to see why Circus Oz has endured, expanded and continues.

Circus Oz Sydney Big Top Season: Cranked Up
January 1 – 27 2014 at Tumbalong Park.
For bookings visit or call 136 100