Model Citizens is Rob Tannion’s first show as artistic director of Circus Oz (he took over in 2016 from the long-serving Mike Finch). If Melbourne critical opinion is anything to go by, he’s off to a flyer.
“Model Citizens is colourful, well choreographed and doesn’t have a dull second,” wrote Chris Boyd in The Australian (paywalled but reprinted on the Circus Oz website). “It’s one of the company’s most child-friendly shows in its 40-year history, but the Looney Tunes playfulness and vintage props (giant clothes pegs, safety pins and cotton reels) have nostalgic resonance for adults.”
The Herald-Sun’s Stephanie Glickman saw Australia’s iconic circus “rebooted and rocking the tent”, a whole company reinvigorated: “While there are some familiar faces among the multi-skilled acrobats and musicians, it’s mostly a whole different crew.”
Model Citizens, Glickman concluded, is “fragile and resilient all at once. Daggy too. And there’s real fire.” She awarded the show four-and-a-half stars.
Ray Gill caught the show for The Daily Review and was impressed by its somewhat uncharacteristic elegance: “Circus Oz sets are often a messy riot of bright colour clashes but Model Citizens’ is all elegant, Yves Klein blue with precise, oversized props (scissors, a peg, a matchbox, cotton reel). The band, too feels less carni wild and – dare one say it – more Cirque du Soleil – with its upbeat accompaniment in the first half giving way to moody, tinkly instrumentals as a disembodied female voice floats over the darkened stage. Maybe Circus Oz, like Australia, is changing.” Four stars from Gill.
Slicker than we’re used to, perhaps, but Circus Oz’s progressive heart still beats, according to The Music’s Joel Lohman “Model Citizens has a lot more on its mind than cool tricks. The show plays extensively with gender roles and heteronormativity. It touches thoughtfully on the refugee experience and explores Australian hypocrisy through a hilarious, ukulele-led ditty (punchline: ‘I like diversity, just not in my backyard’).”
Time Out’s Tim Byrne concurs: “The show carries hints of Brisbane-based Circa’s blending of theatrical forms, along with the occasional nod to Cirque du Soleil’s approach to music, but loses none of the bolshy wit and bravado that audiences have come to associate with this company. If it’s an indication of where they’re heading, it’s a very encouraging one.”