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Roll up, roll up – Circus Connecticus is in town!

Published on 04 October 2018
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  • Arts and culture
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If you’ve visited Ringwood Town Square recently chances are you’ve come across a rollerskating eyeball, a kangaroo in a skirt, oh and some giant puppets!

It’s all part of Circus Connecticus which is on in ArtSpace at Realm and Ringwood Town Square until this Sunday 7 October.

The program includes free performances, as well as circus workshops, plus so much more!

So, if you’re looking for something to do during the school holidays, or want to find out what all the fuss is about, head on over. All performances are free and take place at Ringwood Town Square. Catch the shows from a restaurant, pull up a patch of grass or come and say hi to some friendly characters.

Here are a few of the highlights you can expect during Circus Connecticus:

Cyclo Illuminato

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Is it a boat? Is it a bike? No, it’s Cyclo Illuminato, a humorous wandering spectacle featuring a ringmaster, a clown and an illuminated tricycle.

Having charmed audiences at the 2016 Docklands Winter Festival and at this year’s Commonwealth Games, Cyclo Illuminato by masters of interactive performance, Thomas and Wells, can now be seen in all its colourful splendour at Ringwood Town Square.

Creators David Wells and Neil Thomas have spent the best part of three decades developing artistic identity and having fun through performance art. Yep, this is mostly about fun!

Designed primarily to engage with younger audiences, the duo says their creation is proving just as popular with adults.

“We’ve had a really positive reaction from all groups of people and we absolutely love the feeling of performing for crowds in Ringwood Town Square, which is a beautiful public space. We’re having a splendid time,” says Wells.

Thomas says their tricycle – a converted Copenhagen taxi and the only one of its kind in Australia – has been given a creative ‘circus rebirth’ thanks to the help of the BiGfiSh Workshop.

“There’s an exotic, floral nature about it and it’s quite visual. There’s a kind of silent movie aspect to what we do; a kind of pantomime, but which is also interactive,” says Thomas.

And if there’s anyone whose wardrobe is worth a closer look, it’s Wells as the 1920s-inspired Ringmaster and his trusty sidekick clown, aka Thomas.

The pair have commissioned none other than leading costume designer Laurel Frank, founding member of Circus Oz, to design their outfits.

So, come along and enjoy all the colour and hilarity of Cyclo Illuminato as part of Circus Connecticus.

When: Wednesday 3 October to Friday 5 October, between 11.30am and 3pm
Where: Ringwood Town Square, 179 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood

Giant Puppets come to Maroondah

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Measuring a lofty three and four metres in length, Spunky and The Scammer are a visual treat of gargantuan proportions.

The pair of oversized characters, along with ‘The Magpie’, ‘The Eye’ and ‘Roo Girl’, are a collaborative project featuring VCAL students from Swinburne University of Technology (Croydon campus).

The larger-than-life characters have been seen wandering around Ringwood Town Square – but who are they and what are they all about?

Meet Spunky the conformist and young adult who is easily misled; Roo Girl as the non-conformist; The Eye as the all-seeing ‘Big Brother’; The Scammer who uses data collected by The Eye to scam people and The Magpie who seeks to protect the environment and society’s values.

The puppets are the brainchild of Swinburne’s VCAL students, who have spent the past four weeks bringing their dark and mystical personas to life.

The month-long workshop at EV’s Youth Centre placed participants at the heart of the creative process in developing the characters, issues and local stories they wanted to explore and share.

Student Success Coach at Swinburne, Karin Gibson, said a common theme to emerge during the brainstorming sessions was about how young adults feel they’re being constantly watched and scrutinised by a “false” authority (Facebook, CCTV etc.) and how this information may be used to “scam” them.

“Another emerging theme was young adults conforming and being misled by society and the need to maintain your individuality and not be ‘scammed’,” Karin said.

The joint project recently culminated in a Giant Puppets of Maroondah performance at Ringwood Town Square –their sheer presence inviting audience interaction and inspiring wonder at the extra-ordinariness in everyday life.

Combining the elements of puppetry and visual and physical theatre, the work transcends language barriers, connects with diverse audiences and gives viewers a glimpse into a strange yet mystical world.

Susan Elmasri, Manager VCAL Youth Programs at Swinburne University’s Croydon campus, said the project was an amazing experience for all students involved.

“…what tugged at our heartstrings the most was a handful of students, the quiet ones, the ones without much confidence or a voice, found a place for themselves, even in a small way,” she said.

“Swinburne Youth Programs and Maroondah City Council have been fortunate to collaborate on projects before and have a shared goal to support young people in Maroondah on their journey into adulthood.”

You can catch Spunky and The Scammer at this year’s Maroondah Festival on Sunday 11 November…watch this space!

In the meantime, check out the Magpie and Spunky’s giant shoes in the Realm foyer until 11 November.

Westside Circus

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Seventy Melba College students and 28 refugee families from local multicultural playgroups from the Migrant Information Centre (Eastern Region) recently got the chance to show off their acrobatic and balancing skills during performances in Ringwood Town Square and ArtSpace at Realm.

The dynamic short performances were the culmination of a 10-week workshop program created by legendary youth arts company, Westside Circus.

Westside Circus’ arts community program uses circus as a tool to explore personal growth and self-expression, while helping to link young people and families to broader support networks in their community.

Each Friday, pre-schoolers from Maroondah’s Chin and Karen communities and their families explored coordination, strength and communication through circus-based classes.

The playgroup sessions involved circus arts activities and a community learning approach to enable children and their parents to experience supported child-parent interaction in a playful and supportive environment.

For students of Melba College, the program provided a fun and active way for them to build essential life skills such as confidence, resilience, creative problem solving and perseverance, whilst increasing physical health.

Through circus, participants learnt to overcome vulnerabilities, and build relationships and trust through shared experience. A display about the project can be seen in the Realm foyer until 11 November.

Read more about Westside Circus

Drop-in Circus… and more!

You don’t have to run away with the circus to learn how to juggle, balance and clown around.

Realm is opening up its circus tent doors as part of its ‘pop up’ circus space. So, come one, come all and try your skills at hula hooping and scarf juggling.

While there, be sure to check out ArtSpace’s circus mural. Artist Edwina Atkins has captured all the elements of this year’s Circus Connecticus in this wondrous work of art. Visitors also have the opportunity to add their artistic touch to the space.

The circus space is open every day until Sunday 7 October during Realm opening hours. Please note, the space will be closed from 11.30am to 3pm on Wednesday 3 to Friday 5 October while school holiday circus workshops are underway.

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