Any circus act requires balance.
But ensuring human acrobatic antics stay true to beloved and unwieldy farmyard characters that fans know only in clay form?
That’s the true feat of Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show.
Screens, non-stop stunts and spectacular sound design all help the transformation – but it’s commitment to playfully baaa-baric slapstick that truly brings Shaun and the Mossy Bottom Farm crew to life on stage.
And little and big audience members are in wide-eyed hysterics for the journey.
Brisbane performers Circa has worked with award-winning Shaun the Sheep creators Aardman to make the circus format fit the claymation TV favourite of under-8s around the globe. With 15 years of back catalogue to mine, the 80-minute performance packages plenty of the show’s best tropes.
The (loose) story begins with The Farmer’s new TV, and his incompetent efforts to get it working. The flock make it worse, and Shaun and co have to cover with their own content, piped straight to his telly and onto the stage’s two big screens.
The production’s choppy episode-style format means little attention spans are transfixed as key characters get tumbling time in the spotlight.
Plenty of the action also has clearly prescribed victims, as The Farmer, The Postman, and various animals get thumped, bumped and whacked around the stage to roars of blood-thirsty children’s delight. (Recoveries are usually swift, thankfully.)
The lush green set rises high up above the stage, topped by The Farmer’s house, and creating a fun launchpad for daring leaps and tumbles.
Hopefully, the greenery also has a cooling effect for the indefatigable cast of nine performers – while woolly costumes and cute animal-head caps are convincing, the long sleeves and pants have them sweating like the proverbial. (It’s possible all the running, flipping, diving, climbing, etc, also contributes.)
On TV, Shaun the Sheep’s cheeky slapstick plots offer a few sly nods to parents watching along. (In series one, an episode called ‘Little Sheep of Horrors’ shouts out the Psycho shower scene – hopefully NOT ringing bells for most of the pint-sized audience!)
On stage, the most obvious for-the-grownups moments are hints of raunch: a sheep shearing turns striptease, and (sizzling!) sows take to the tandem trapeze. The latter perfectly captures the challenge of how to gracefully keep balance, while still remaining in character as a graceless pig. The two female performers shine as swine.
Other highlights are Timmy’s gorgeous ascent on aerial silks, and ensemble madness for the surf rock climax to Act I, and as seven sheep and Bitzer spectacularly scamper up, down and around a central upright pole for the Nintendo-riffing finale.
Bright daylight on the Sidney Myer Music Bowl stage is a big shift for the cast and crew, after premiering last year in the darkened Lyric Theatre of Brisbane’s QPAC.
But as kids run, bump and cartwheel up the Bowl’s green hill after the show, the space proves a fun fit for all the breath-taking inspiration that Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show delivers.
Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show
Sidney Myer Music Bowl
Artistic Director: Yaron Lifschitz
Composer/Sound Design: Jethro Woodward
Associate Choreographer: Elise May
Costume Designer: Libby McDonnell
Tickets $35-$55 (allocated seating)
Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show is on stage at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl until 9 January, with matinee and evening performances. It includes a 20-minute interval.