With audiences spoiled by expensive movie special effects, a circus often needs a grandiose stunt or a powerful theme to set it apart.
Boyd Productions’ Circus of Illusion opts instead for an eclectic mix of circus acts, tied together by a threadbare big top aesthetic and the impressive illusions of Michael Boyd.
The first impression is of a lean show designed around the economics of COVID-19. But even without an elaborate set, the jugglers, strength athletes and aerialists displayed striking poise, power and dexterity. The humble presentation also made it easy to connect with the performers and appreciate their considerable skills, for a show that was open to children but satisfying for adults.
Canberra native Idris Stanton was charming as the self-deprecating ringmaster, deploying fun skits from his Wham Glam Circus Man routine. His impish sincerity built goodwill in the audience, and kept energy high.
Illusionist Michael Boyd was star of the show, coupling a graceful rapport with the audience with adroit delivery of iconic acts such as levitation, disappearance and mentalism. The children in the crowd adored his playful gag with an iPhone and a banana.
Highlight acts included a mesmerising foot juggling routine with Chinese umbrellas by Tara Boom, and a bold aerial hoop routine by Tro, an artist with extraordinary strength and flexibility. The dance interludes were engaging, with speed, force and control.
Circus of Illusion is a mishmash, with casino glitz, dorky humour, straightforward acts and a lean format built for a brisk tour and easy swapping of acts. In this Canberra performance, the talent on show was considerable, and the charm of Stanton and Boyd coaxed enthusiastic participation in the magic of the circus.