Life’s A Circus

Magnormos are a massively talented Melbourne company, and this latest production of Anthony Costanzo’s Life’s A Circus is an example of just how far they are moving along.

Local lyricist/composer Costanzo certainly has talent. The script’s plot is somewhat predictable, but then again, maybe I’ve just seen too many musicals. When musicals are written by a performer about performers (as they so very often are) there’s unfortunately a certain stereotype that emerges. I must admit I sat down waiting for the troubled gay character to materialize and sure enough, he was revealed within minutes.  I have nothing against it, and as they say, “we write what we know”. It just gets a bit tiring for the regular fringe music theatre audiences.

Life’s A Circus tells the story of best friends Vivien (Chelsea Plumley) and David (Glen Hogstrom), seasoned circus performers at the pointy end of their decade-long career with the Grande Illusion Circus. They meet a young, impressionable and sexually confused new cast member, Alex (Cameron Macdonald) – and an awkward relationship triangle between the three of them ensues. Issues of ageing, sexuality, career vs. personal life are all thrown around. Nothing new here but it comes with the territory. Parallels are frequently drawn between life and the circus, read: “Life is a sideshow”.

The combination of music theatre and circus is a hugely successful one, so much so that this production would really benefit from being staged in a much bigger space than St Kilda’s Theatreworks. At times, the professional circus performers looked a tad stifled in their movements in this restricted space. There are some jaw-dropping tricks performed, but some of them didn’t seem as ‘thrilling’ in this intimate theatre context: we all witnessed the inevitable clunkiness of heavy landings and awkward hand grips between performers.

Having said that, it’s still exciting to watch and of course the evening’s highlights came when all three singers and four circus performers were on stage together, creating group numbers with the combination of song and circus tricks. I wanted to see more of this combined work but scenes with dialogue were necessary in order for the plot to progress.

The flow of scenes was not always consistent – some scenes were much stronger than others, and there’s hardly any dialogue in the first third of the show, yet plenty in the last third – so it seemed there was an attempt to quickly tie up the plot so it finished neatly at the end.

But between the singers and the circus performers there was not one weak link in the team. The three leads, who share the entire show’s lyrical component between them  each created magical duets with eachother, and each have solos that were seamless and a real pleasure to listen to; both for the vocal talent and Costanzo’s songwriting skills.  Musical highlights included “A Cup of Capitalism”, “Midnight” and “The Olive Tree” – all partly duets with strong, chillingly beautiful harmonies.

This is one incredibly impressive and smooth production made even better with the knowledge it’s been locally produced every step of the way.

Until August 15. Bookings: .

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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