View Comments
Circus star keeps balls in air
The West Australian

The appetite for top-flight circus seems to be unabated after a big year for the physical and fearless art-form. There were no fewer than three shows from the Cirque du Soleil stable last year, plus visits by Slava's Snowshow, Circus Oz, Empire Spiegelworld, Circus Ronaldo and more than a dozen acts at Fringe World 2013.

A big chunk of the Fringe World circus program came courtesy of the Lunar Circus, which grooms the jugglers and tumblers of tomorrow and showcases the stars of today at its annual festival at its rambling base south of Margaret River.

The WA Circus Festival, held each January in Karridale, was first held in 2007 and attracts circus folk from around the world.

This year, the festival runs from noon to midnight over the Australia Day long weekend and features more than 100 local, interstate and international performers.

The 2014 headlining acts include Canada's Vague de Cirque and Brisbane "boylesque" troupe Briefs and Melbourne outfit Pants Down Circus.

For performers like Brisbane juggler Olivia Porter, Karridale has become the place where the carnies congregate for a few weeks of workshops and training followed by three days of Circus Festival performances before heading up the highway to Perth to start the annual fringe touring circuit.

"There are lots of people bringing their shows to Perth," Porter says.

"Having the international performers come over, exposing their work and sharing skills, and just inspiring each other is such a fantastic opportunity and makes this a unique place to be," she says.

"Circus has a nice supportive feel in that way. There doesn't seem to be a lot of competition and everyone is happy and willing to share ideas and skills.

"Circus is changing a lot. There are a lot of fresh and interesting ideas and it is not so much the traditional-style circus anymore. There are a lot more influences from theatre, dance and music."

Porter, 27, has worked with Circa, Vulcana Women's Circus and 3 is a Crowd. She has become known for her innovative and unusual juggling style, dead-pan comic stage persona and theatrical physicality since starting out at the relatively old age of 19. (Many other performers began training and performing at as young as three.)

"Lots of people have been doing circus since they were quite young and have developed a broad range of skills, but I am trying to develop my other skills compared to everyone else," Porter says.

"There are not a lot of established female jugglers in Australia but there is definitely not a lot coming through."

Porter will join the Lunar Circus bandwagon for several shows at Fringe World. She will then move on to the Adelaide Fringe before taking up a spot with the Circus Oz troupe in Melbourne.

Her career highlights include performing at London Underbelly, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Sydney Hoopla Festival and to an audience of more than 10,000 at Taiwan's New Year Lantern Festival.

Beyond the circus performances, the Karridale festival includes free camping with weekend tickets, live music all day, workshops, market and food stalls selling everything from beef, fish and tofu burgers to wood-fired pizzas, the famous Dr Reg Bolton Bar, and the Half Cut Bar featuring a double-decker bus and a big boat.

'Circus has a nice supportive feel . . . there doesn't seem to be a lot of competition.'