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January 26, 2022

Citizen Circus

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Set in a beautiful yet chaotic model-kit world, Model Citizens seamlessly blends the risk, beauty and rawness of acrobatic circus with pumping live music, stunning lighting, breathtaking physical improbability and no shortage of absurdity.

Steph Mouat of the Circus Oz ensemble talks about exploring what it really means to be a model citizen in our ‘lucky’ country today.

What was the moment you knew circus was your passion?

I’m not sure there was one particular moment; it was more a culmination of experiences. The first time I remember doing something acrobatic was when I was seven, and did a backflip on a backyard trampoline as the result of a neighbour’s dare. At the time I was pretty convinced I was the only seven-year-old in the world to be able to do so, an idea that was shattered fairly quickly when my mum enrolled me in gymnastics shortly after.

I was also lucky enough to be at a primary school where we started each day with 15 minutes of juggling practice, and could walk around on stilts at lunchtime – pretty rad!

A little later on, my dad’s first eBay purchase was a $20 unicycle, and I practised diligently in the hallway of our house (and also, one time, rode straight through the wall at the end, much to my dad’s displeasure).

By the time I started training at NICA I was pretty much sold on the circus thing, especially when I realised how much fun it was to travel and to perform.

How do you stay performance ready? How much training does it require?

Keeping my body ready for performance involves a couple of hours of warm-up before each show, as well as squeezing in time to train wherever we can – which can be tricky on the road! To become an acrobat I trained about eight hours a day at the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, when I was aged 15–20, and then for another year after that at Le Lido in Toulouse, France.

So tell me what hand balancing is?

Hand balancing is a lot like what its name suggests! A hand-balance routine is usually made up of a mix of balancing on one hand or two, in different shapes, and moving around between them. Some might say a little bit like dancing, only upside down.

Were you always a bit of a boundary pusher?

I’m not sure that I’ve ever intentionally been a boundary pusher – mostly I just like going upside down and on adventures.

Tell me about your the show you are bringing here in May.

Model Citizen is the first Circus Oz show directed by Rob Tannion, and features an almost entirely new cast with a super-diverse range of skills. It’s set inside an enormous model kit, made up of oversized everyday objects, most of which are used as unconventional circus apparatus. The show follows the journey of the unwelcome arrival of a foreigner to a highly structured, plastic world, which is ultimately transformed by his presence to a place that is more diverse and human. It stops along the way to take a fairly irreverent look at some of the stereotypes of Australian culture – something that has always been a part of Circus Oz.

Circus Oz perform Model Citizens at NORPA at Lismore City Hall this Friday and Saturday. Tickets $20–55.

Bookings 1300 066 772 or norpa.org.au.

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