Sidesault at the Melba: Laser Kiwi

Colossal Productions Laser Kiwi - photo by Brig Bee PhotographyThanks to Circus Oz and their Collingwood home, the second annual Sidesault at the Melba festival is underway! There are two mini-seasons, each showcasing three companies per night over four nights. Sidesault aims to push the boundaries of what circus can be. Certainly New Zealand’s Colossal Productions have set their sights on this task in their show: Laser Kiwi.

The proudly apolitical show is performed by a trio in black leotards. There’s ginger hipster Degge (Jarvie), elfin-featured Imogen (Stone), and often upbeat Zane (Jarvie), who just sometimes felt under pressure to keep the show running along smoothly.

Their work references an entry in one of the NZ flag referenda of 2015, James Gray’s entry Fire the Laser. Regrettably for some, the referenda ultimately endorsed the status quo. Yet, the entry with the weaponised kiwi bird excited the public imagination. Laser Kiwi have taken this as a spur to create the future by pursuing new ideas to see where they lead.

Their first idea was the decision to perform a series of sketches in their 60 minutes. Whilst there was the odd reprise or callback, mostly we have discrete episodes, which could make them hard to recall when delivered at this snappy pace. Fear not, for we have (childish yet endearing) innovation two: photocopies of a handwritten running sheet provided to the audience, garnished with activities to occupy if you don’t like the action.

There doesn’t seem to be much chance of that though. At this performance a good-sized audience laughed loudly and often at the surprising trajectories of sketches. Segments included a contest inspired by Japanese game shows, Pug vs Poodle, and Really Accurate Snail, examples of delightful silliness arising from an eccentric idea or original connection.

From a technical standpoint, I appreciated how the company recognised the limitations of the venue’s flat seating in curved rows. Use of an elevated stage ensured everyone could see the action, sparing us the frustration of poor sight-lines common to a Spiegeltent-type setup.

Degge and Zane provided a lot of the physical comedy, with Imogen supplying most displays of circus skills. In a montage relating to outer space, whilst the boys mucked around with dodgy props she displayed flexibility and control on ribbons. Imogen also impressed with character comedy, using her features to good effect in impressions of aliens, or stifling displeasure with an audience member during an act of balance and dexterity.

You could argue that this is a physical comedy show with some circus in it. If a show ends up being this entertaining, I don’t care. With wacky antics so sharply focused, this Laser Kiwi will zero-in on your preconceptions of what a show in a tent can be, and blast them to oblivion.

As we’re talking about boundaries at Sidesault, warm congratulations to Circus Oz for their efforts to make circus shows more inclusive. Festival shows on Saturday 13 October 13 had a mix of Auslan Interpretation and Audio Description, and Love is the Drug on Saturday 20 October 20 will have an Auslan Interpreter.

Sidesault at the Melba: Laser Kiwi
The Melba Spiegeltent, 35 Johnson Street, Collingwood
Performance: Saturday 13 October 2018 – 8.00pm
Season: 11 – 14 October 2018 (ended)

Image: Zane Jarvie, Degge Jarvie and Imogen Stone in Laser Kiwi – photo by Brig Bee Photography

Review: Jason Whyte