As we wait for the performance to start, a video on a giant screen shows snippets of young people answering the question, “What do I love about Australia?” It’s no surprise to hear plenty of mentions of beaches, wildlife, friends and family, but there are just as many reflections on culture, community and acknowledgment of freedoms and privileges.
Embodying these concepts through the medium of physical movement is an ambitious goal, but the CircoBats crew gives it an impressive crack. The 70-minute show features a huge group of performers (aged eight to 21 years), each demonstrating their talents via a series of short, themed sequences designed and choreographed to ensure everyone gets a turn to shine and the audience (on this day, a large group of primary school students with their teachers) stays engaged.
CircoBats Community Circus is a not-for-profit school founded in 2008 by the late Franky Charman-Green. Franky’s daughters, Alex Charman (head trainer) and Zoe Charman, along with a team of volunteers, offer an inclusive and diverse timetable of circus skill-building sessions for all ages. This year’s Fringe show features dance, tumbling, trampolining and hoop skills, as well as aerial and floor acrobatics and more.
We whizz through scenes set in the surf, at Bunnings, in a bowling alley, on city streets and high among the gum trees (pairs of sleepy koalas stretch and yawn on their trapeze perches). Kangaroos bounce and box, and there’s a tribute to Aussie TV favourites Kath, Kim and Sharon that earns a lot of laughs.
It’s obvious that much work has gone into the selection of costumes and soundtrack. There are frequent changes of outfits (think tie-dyed leotards, flannies, business shirts and ’70s jumpsuits), and music spanning genres and eras.
Resilience is evident as hiccups are handled calmly, and there’s an on-with-the-show attitude and many lovely moments as performers encourage each other with a smile or a hand on a shoulder. Video outtakes highlight the fact that it’s okay to get things wrong and that no one nails it perfectly the first time round.
Many would agree that, as a country, we have far to travel before we come to a truly shared understanding of what “being Australian” means (and perhaps we will never settle on a unified definition). Celebrating Australia is a colourful and exuberant display of agility and enthusiasm for life. I wouldn’t be surprised if it inspired some audience members to sign up for a class and join the fun.
Celebrating Australia is playing at CircoBats Community Circus until March 21.
Read more Adelaide Fringe reviews and previews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.