Together, Berliner siblings and musical chameleons Otto and Astrid Rot have had many years at the forefront of the post-punk scene. Shows by their band Die Roten Punkte have given us sketches of their (sometimes uncomfortable) family and musical history. Now, through this collaboration with Circus Oz, we get the full (unvarnished) original story – and a good slab of their back catalogue – in Rock Bang.
At times, especially early on, the staging seemed somewhat curious. We might have circus performers tumbling or balancing at various points around the stage. This could deflect our attention from the Rot children telling their story.
The story is set on a rock gig stage, amongst instruments and cases of music gear. When the use of stage properties seemed incongruous with the story, this was distracting. At other times objects were used more directly and effectively, such as when a case lid was flipped open to act as a screen for projections. Such screens were quite small though, and some further back in the house may struggle to clearly see the images.
It seems that the Merlyn Theatre places constraints on a circus company. Compared to what we expect of Circus Oz, the range of apparatus used was limited. Sometimes a skills sequence seemed shoehorned into the story. At others, such as when a hoop aerialist “angel” signalled Otto and Astrid’s arrival in Berlin, we experienced a pleasing synergy between the performers and elements.
Rock Bang runs for around 100 minutes (plus a 20-minute interval), much longer than the standard Die Roten Punkte show seen by Australian Fringe audiences. The slower pace allowed here might not always suit the band’s schtick. Normally, you just don’t get a chance to ask questions. Given think time here, we might find the logic of the Rot story not always so convincing.
Pickiness aside, there were certainly times when the collaboration worked well. Having the extra bodies and physicality of Circus Oz gave the siblings new realms to explore. I was amused by an opening that skewered fairy tales and the supposed expectations of a “Malthouse Audience”, as Circus Oz performers added symbolic flourishes to Astrid’s account of childhood events. The company was also useful in showing us how Astrid’s wild adolescence motivated her song OMG Yeah.
It felt a bit odd to hear some Die Roten Punkte songs accompanied by extra instruments played by Circus Oz performers. Still, offerings like Otto’s Straight Edge Girl showed that the songs are still catchy. Tunes like The 4:15 to Spandau Will Not Run Today will give the uninitiated a sense of the band’s musical nerdery.
Things are a bit different now Die Roten Punkte have a budget, and Otto’s swapped his CBGB T-shirt for their own merch. The outing was consistently entertaining though. If you want to experience a high-energy performance with some visual surprises, you’ll get some solid hits from Rock Bang.
Circus Oz: Rock Bang
Merlyn Theatre – The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Season continues to 25 November 2018
Lennox Theatre – Riverside Theatres, Corner Church and Market Streets, Parramatta
Season: 10 – 13 January 2019
For more information, visit: www.circusoz.com for details.
Image: Alyssa Moore, Astrid Rot, Robbie Curtis, Matt Wilson, Kyle Raftery, Otto Rot, April Dawson and Rockie Stone star in Rock Bang – photo by Mark Turner
Review: Jason Whyte