Circus Oz's new festival 'Sidesault' is a multi-dimensional masterpiece

“Circus Oz as a brand has its identity which does push the boundaries, but I think with Sidesault we’re giving people an opportunity to do that through their own voices, especially young and new artists who are trying interest.”

Celebrating 40 years of Circus Oz in 2018, Australia’s leading troupe of theatre, satire and rock’n’roll keep the thrills coming with Sidesault at The Melba, showcasing the talents of six local, national and international circus companies as they present experimental cross-platform works, challenging the barriers of contemporary circus. 

If you thought Circus Oz pushed the boundaries, Sidesault amplifies that. “It’s about the artist’s voices,” says co-curator, Brian Robertson. “Through an expression of interest process, different artists come to us with different ideas – it just opens it up a lot more.

“Circus Oz as a brand has its identity which does push the boundaries, but I think with Sidesault we’re giving people an opportunity to do that through their own voices, especially young and new artists who are trying interest.”

Because the inaugural event last year was a huge success, there’s certain to be another eclectic mix of artistic voices to be seen and heard at this year’s edition of Sidesault, ready to dazzle and delight.

 “The shows we’ve chosen are all done in different ways,” explains Robertson. “We’ve got one show, Laser Kiwi, that use, in simple terms, a sketch-comedy format in there show, and involve amazing circus in that.

My Sight - Their Sight is contemporary dance that has amazing circus in it. Jeff Love's show is a theatre piece, a monologue that has amazing circus in it. That’s the boundaries they’re pushing, linking things together you wouldn’t think of at a main circus show. You’re kind of getting a bit of everything in a weird and different way.”

It’s the weird and different that enlivens circus but cross-genre work pushes against everything you knew about traditional circus, creating an elaborate feast for the senses, as well as the potential for further opportunity for the performers after Sidesault. With the medium of circus manipulated into more magical scenarios, Sidesault has come a long way in only the one year since its conception and first showcase.

“Last year, the shows that were part of Sidesault have gone off to have great success,” says Robertson. “In particular, Casting Off won Best Circus at Edinburgh Festival and Melbourne Fringe. I think the success of those shows, using Sidesault as a platform for these young artists to show their work in a supportive way they wouldn’t normally get to, that gave us a lot of choice as to what to put in the program.

“The six we’ve chosen are really strong – the success of last year has really built what this event can be.”

Much like similar events in other areas of the performing arts, such as VB Hard Yards in music, where there’s an emphasis on catapulting new talent into the spotlight, Sidesault is much the same. “Circus is not a cheap art form,” says Robertson, “Especially because there’s big ensemble work, a lot of work that goes into it, so for us to be in a position where we can support that, for these artists to use it as a launching pad to go on, that’s what I find really exciting and what we’d like Sidesault to continue to be, to be that launching pad for these great pieces of work.”

Whether or not you’ve seen a Circus Oz performance before, naturally, the prospect of witnessing up-and-comers might have you think Sidesault may be a little lacklustre, but don’t be fooled – there’s always a mandatory exhilaration that accompanies circus and cross-genre performance. “The real excitement in it is that you’re not going to see something you’d see on a main stage, you’re not going to see something that’s conventional, and they’re all really fun too, and highly skilled.

“You get highly skilled acrobatics and circus framed in a way you wouldn’t normally see, or wouldn’t normally put two and two together.

“I would really encourage people to see more than one of the shows because they’re very different – watching a juggling show next to a surrealist theatre piece, you don’t get a show like that normally.”

Sidesault at The Melba is on from now until October 21. Tickets available via the Circus Oz website.