CIRCA Carnival of the Animals review 4.5 stars

If you’re looking for fun family entertainment for your children over these school holidays, then Carnival of the Animals is a worthy contender for your time and money.
Named after, inspired by and suitably matched to Camille Saint-Saëns’ beautiful fourteen movement composition, the entire performance is bursting with colour, humour, and most importantly, some pretty amazing circus performances.
True to the show’s name, the cast take on the behaviour of individual creatures, such as butterflies, cats, dogs, fish, caterpillars, chickens, kangaroos, zebras, fleas and more, with the performers generally incorporating some of these creatures’ characteristics into the jumping, tumbling, balancing, juggling, spinning, clowning, swinging, twirling, skipping and aerial antics that unfold.
The seven cast members are absolute pros in their acrobatic and gymnastic abilities and their playfully energetic, innocent and overly-cheery delivery ensures that they’re always engaging and fun to watch. There’s a fair amount of slapstick comedy through the show and as clumsy, wacky clowns the ensemble quickly earn the adoration of all those in the theatre. As acrobats, however, they constantly awe and amaze children and adults in the audience alike, as they clamber over each to create human towers or at one point even a lumbering dinosaur consisting entirely of circus performers!
Accompanying the incredible skill on display here are cartoonish and totally enjoyable animations that set the scene for several of the acts, including memorable ‘under water’ and ‘cacoon’ sequences.
The show isn’t perfect, however. A prolonged section in which inflatable sharks are carried through the theatre kissing children, left the audience confused and wondering whether the totally empty stage indicated that the show had finished. Another moment saw several cast members unnecessarily and playfully pummel the audience with balloons and large inflatable balls, distracting everyone from the impressive physical feats occurring behind them.
Overall though, Carnival of the Animals is an incredibly fun and wacky experience. While the show is effectively oriented to a child audience, it’s not overly patronising for parents and on several occasions I found myself, and nearby adults, exclaim amazement at what was occurring on stage. If you have children it’s definitely worth checking out.
Carnival of the Animals is a CIRCA Production, showing at the Arts Centre Melbourne from 28th September – 4th October 2015.