The audience is excited for opening night of Shaun The Sheep’s Circus Show. It is a collaboration between Brisbane-based Circa Contemporary Circus and Aardman Animations, creators of the multi-award-winning TV series Shaun the Sheep. Devised by Richard Starzak, the show is a spectacle of staging, using the height and depth of QPAC’s Lyric Theatre to full advantage. They have rolled a hill of astroturf green down from Mossy Bottom Farm. It is in this meadow where – unbeknown to the oblivious farmer – everyone’s favourite sheep, Shaun, and his flock of animal friends animals interact and play. What is to see? Simply, un-baaa-lievable circus skills and thrills while a digital billboard (the video director is Craig Wilkinson) shows clips from the original movie.
Introduction to the show’s characters is accompanied by a dynamic soundscape. Before long, we settle into a story, of sorts, told in short scenes that suit the young audience demographic. An eclectic Act One ends with the animals accidentally cutting the power fuelling the farmer’s tv, meaning they must improvise with the, at-first chaotic, circus of the show’s title … that takes up Act Two. A live video of the on-stage antics not only captures the circus acts from a different perspective, but allows for some additional humour, as the animals play things up for the camera.
Whoever maintains sheep don’t fly clearly has never seen the extreme physicality and awe-inspiring feats that are at the core of Circa shows. And in keeping with the intricacy of the company’s art form, the all-ages opening night audience was audibly astounded by the range of tricks that showcase the agility, strength and skill of the company’s performers. With hoop diving, towering hand balances, aerial hoops and silks amongst others, there is much to be impressed by. Of particular note are a triple trapeze act and a late-show multi-person Chinese pole routine. That sees a performer balance momentarily unattached on the mid-air outstretched body of another. Movement is integrated so as to feel like more than just a stunt. And when the lights go out things literally sparkle, courtesy of neon juggling pins.
Created and directed by Yaron Lifschitz , Shaun The Sheep’s Circus Show is about character connection and Circa’s performers embrace that with every gesture and facial expression. And, of course, the splats and spills are appreciated by children. The slapstick of the postman interacting with a pesky, protective dog is a comedy highlight.
While the show’s creatives have crafted an visual spectacle, this is enhanced by the wit. Traditional verbal communication isn’t there, apart from some gibberish from the farmer and the postman. However, there is still a break in the fourth wall by the farmer, which prompts audience participation and emotive ‘baas’ of exclamation from the sheep.
If modern circus portrays characters and tells stories, then Shaun The Sheep’s Circus Show is modern circus at its playfully charming best. Indeed, the heart-warming show is “shear” brilliance, experience of which is the gift that keeps giving.
Shaun The Sheep’s Circus Show is showing at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre March 2 – 21.
For more of Meredith Walker’s theatre reviews, check out Blue Curtains Brisbane.