Wednesday September 30, 2020


By Diana Simmonds
October 10 2018

LEXICON, NotFit State Circus, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Botanical Gardens, 3-21 October 2018. Photography by Mark Robson

There is something about a Big Top show. The word “circus” creates excitement. People lining up to get the good seats, grabbing popcorn or indeed burgers and chips on their way in – I’ve never quite connected food with the theatre or cinema, but hey, it’s a circus, I left my grumps at the entrance flap.

There’s the sound of an accordion and people strain their necks to see what will be happening above them. The circus clown is replaced with modern smiling performers chatting, grabbing the laughs; it’s a gentle warm up for what is to come. The lights go down and the wonder arrives.

The show’s title, The Art of Misbehaving says everything and the show begins with the epitome of mucking up. The performers are being naughty school kids at desks when the teacher is flown in, telling them to behave or else. As she flies out the desks also start to fly and the misbehaving continues in earnest.


That’s really when the narrative ends. What comes next are moments that don’t really connect, not that the audience care that much as they are in awe. They are witness to a circus show that encompasses strength, skill and humour, they’re not worried about a narrative.

The band almost steals the show, they are tight, they are good. They work well with each of the performers, from the bizarre, to chorale, to the melodic solo sung in French. The performers augmenting on instruments and vocals. There is clowning through the giant hoops, tightrope, acrobatics galore and a weird array of bikes!

Performers who work in this medium work hard. I admire their strength and commitment, so much more than carnie folk. These are people who have honed their skills, they rely not only on each other but are also at the mercy of the person who is their counterbalance. I applaud them all. 


The swinging trapeze artiste in sync with the band, that’s hitting out some brilliant blues/rock, is jaw-dropping as is his obvious enjoyment of flying terrifyingly high to the infectious music. In stark contrast to, but equally as engaging, is the rope aerialist drawing us in with his gentleness. The flame-throwing (almost a clown) works a treat as does the death-defying unicyclist riding on a thin line of wine glasses. 

Two-and-half hours with an interval is a long time to keep the interest of kids but the ones around me are quite content until the end. It’s not cutting edge, but I (and many others) audibly gasp many times, laugh out loud and love the musicians. Life under the Big Top. Recommended.



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