Review: Rock Bang, Malthouse Theatre

Thuy On

This show rocks and bangs but first of all, let’s get this straight: this is not your average circus, this is a rock opera fusion circus.
Review: Rock Bang, Malthouse Theatre

Circus Oz 2018. ROCK BANG with Astrid Rot, Robbie Curtis, and Otto Rot. Photographer Andrew Wuttke.

The name is perfect onomatopoeia. This show rocks and bangs but first of all, let’s get this straight: this is not your average circus, this is a rock opera fusion circus, teaming dynamic duo Otto (Daniel Tobias) and Astrid (Clare Bartholomew) of Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots in German) with Circus Oz’s acrobatic players.

Rock Bang doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s this lack of earnestness that makes it fun. Part satire part celebration of Eurotrash punk, it’s loosely based on the story of the squabbling siblings (domineering Astrid and her younger rather sweet brother Otto). Fact and fiction are blurred: their parents may have been killed in a train accident, or they may have been eaten by lions (there is fierce debate on the issue). Either way, the kids were briefly under the guardianship of a cruel uncle and aunt before running away and entering Berlin as the Wall crumbled. They grow up in squats, lose their way, indulge, find themselves again and in their own reckoning, become the best band in the world. In between ribald patter (accented, of course) to the audience they sing their little hearts out and play miniature drums (Astrid) and guitar (Otto). These instruments may or may not have been purloined from a primary school.

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Otto and Astrid are certainly fine rock musos; and they are backed by a tight four-piece band. As for the Circus Oz troupe, the six on loan show their great versatility by being back-up singers and musicians, they clown around as support characters when they are not busy tumbling around, juggling balls of dough, whizzing through the air, spinning plates, circling about in swathes of hanging fabric and performing assorted other tricks and buffoonery. It’s all very theatrical and a little bit silly, with a dash of shadow puppetry thrown in to round out the narrative.

As for the wardrobe imagine everyone painted in garish, heavy duty make-up and matching ensemble pieces of black, red, polka, braces, denims and a helluva attitude. The songs themselves are a mish-mash of campy Bowie, New Order, Kraftwerk, and Radiohead, including one particularly glam number involving skin-tight silver costumes. The song doesn’t make much sense; it’s ostensibly about a robot that identifies as a lion. What even is this you wonder? Some cabaret wannabe Eurovision outfit? It doesn’t really matter in the end because artistic Rob Tannion throws in all of these random elements, lets them loose on stage to do their thang and they make a lot of noise and do it rather well. Entertaining. 

4 stars ★★★★
Circus Oz: Rock Bang
A CIRCUS ROCK OPERA 
PRESENTED BY CIRCUS OZ IN COLLABORATION WITH  OTTO & ASTRID
Duration 120 minutes (including a 20 minute interval)
Season 15 – 25 November 2018
Location The Coopers Malthouse, Merlyn Theatre

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Thuy On is a freelance literary journalist and critic and the books editor of The Big Issue.