Propaganda A Review

Art & Culture

Circus aint what it used to be, eh. acrobats new show Propaganda has definitely got its nimble feet in the genres avant garde but true to the spirit of all circus, it is about celebrating nonconformity. And making you go cor blimey how the hell dshe do that?! every so often. And laughing quite a lot.

But it is a bit more thought-provoking than the big top; the humour in Propaganda is more self-conscious, ironic, barbed even, than it is slapstick. Only – aha! the joke is that Propaganda is about an avant-garde circus outfit that goes on a world tour. And it does contain slapstick. This might sound a bit pretentious and annoying but I loved it. acrobat is an Australian company and there is an infusion of Antipodean attitude and humour here that works a treat at getting you to laugh on both sides of your face. You know youre being taken the piss out of, but theyre also taking the piss out of themselves, so its all fine.

The show, performed by two acrobats, is an hour or so of sketches based around the idea of a couple who have indoctrinated their kids into the true way of twenty-first century life eating right, thinking right, riding bikes, running barefoot in the sand and are now taking their propaganda on tour to communicate these messages through the medium of circus. The kids themselves provide some brilliant leftfield keys and percussion in accompaniment to semi-naked mum and dads antics on stage.

So we move from ma and pa in gulag-style brown overalls practising their routine and making lots of mistakes and getting tangled up in each other. Yes, clowning in other words, but they are taking it very seriously. Only not really. Anyway, Dad gets up on his soapbox with his megaphone to bark a long list of dos and donts at the crowd, culminating in do some fucking tricks! cue mum, topless, doing a static trapeze act on a thick rope hanging in the centre of the stage. And then some kind of Jefferson Airplane moment where she intones a banal song while playing some threatening eerie bass guitar and wearing a fluffy rabbit mask. Its not empty irony though it all looks and sounds rather beautiful.

In the midst of all this postmodern stuff there are some truly awesome moments of physical wow-ness. Like hanging from a swing by the back of your head or the tops of your feet. Or doing a no-hands somersault straight over your head. Or some effing brilliant fixie bike riding, pedalling while sitting on the handlebars facing the other way and making very tight circles round the little stage.

There is a lot of wit and imagination going on here visual gags, cultural references (Orwell and Chaplin both came to mind), great bits of sound production. Doing the whole morning-routine-getting-ready-for-the-office-suit-and-tie thing while balancing on a slack rope and pouring milk and orange juice all over yourself and your dutiful wife is hilarious. And yes, it still makes you want to run away and join the circus.

Mads Ryle

Propaganda’ is performed by Australian company acrobat. It was showing as part of the Roundhouse’s Circusfest 2010 from 13-16 May. You can find out more about acrobat at