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NZ Fringe Festival 2013
Campground Chaos
Director & deviser: Nick Blake
Dance choreographer: Maria Dabrowska
Fuse Circus

at St Johns Bar Green, Wellington
From 28 Feb 2013 to 9 Mar 2013

Reviewed by Charlotte Simmonds, 2 Mar 2013

If you enjoy clowning but are afraid of clowns, like aerobatics but are scared of heights, and if you prefer to confront your fears vicariously from the relative (sitting up front) safety of your own plot of grass, this may be the thing you want this summer! 

In addition to your picnic blanket, picnic basket, picnic drinks and picnic children, bring plenty of picnic cash because this is a $30 show for the busker's price of whatever you can afford and if you go a little easier on the picnic drinks you can probably afford to give a lot more, and if you can't afford the suggested koha, don't feel guilty, just laugh extra loud. 

Fuse Circus – the company responsible for sell-out shows The Navigators, Gravity and Other Myths and Heavenly Burlesque – have toured this piece from the Bay of Islands to Invercargill this summer and now at last back home in Wellington, they bring us an as-always lovingly crafted set that is in itself a delight to look at.

With a cast of five, the developed characters are equally lovable and delightful to watch cavorting about the space, from the mischievous campground tui with a most effervescent smile (Jay Air) to the raucous, beer-guzzling yet somehow endearing bogan (Zach Washer).

This particular show was also performed at Frank Kitts Park during the 2011 Fringe. I did not see it then but judging from the trailer, the routines of the 2013 version have been drastically altered and one cast member (Natalie Hona), having nabbed herself a dance contract in Germany, has been replaced. Some of this may potentially be the reason for the “world's tallest long drop” being disappointingly under-utilised and achieving none of its anticipated comic potential, but I doubt I would have noticed what might have just blended into the set, if it hadn't been pointed out at the beginning of the show.  

The storyline is charming and humorous and, supplemented by a well-curated entirely New Zealand soundtrack, altogether boosted my sense of patriotism and pride in having had the accident of being born under the same flag as such acrobats. Nigel, the flustered and bumbling camp manager (Tom Beauchamp) struggles in vain to maintain order, usually making things worse, as Jeff the Bogan parties hard from within his Cyr wheel and vies against a juggling sports nut (Sean Dwen) for the attention of Olga, the stunning red-headed German tourist (Jessica Judge) who has unwittingly smitten not only the three men and the entire audience but even the cheeky tui. 

The timing of the show, carefully coordinated with the natural lighting of summer, is well-planned, resulting in optimal dreaminess as Olga finally chooses Jeff for the romantic love scene on an aerial hoop which throws out hints from behind this family-friendly façade towards the troupe's late-night burlesque alter-ego. 

The show culminates in a grand barbecue in the sky at the Flying Picnic Table of Death. It may not have been every child's dream to eat sausages in bread at tables floating in the clouds, but it was mine! 

Plenty of death-defying stunts and ooh-ahh moments, yet there is an element of assumption when we go to a circus, especially in spoilt-for-choice Wellington. We expect no less than brilliance from each performer. We do not expect them to break a leg, fall, mess up a trick. We assume they will astound us and are not too astounded when they do. They know secrets we don't. They are not human. They cannot fail.

So when Sean Dwen begins the spinning on his finger of an object I reach for twice a day and yet have never thought to bend towards tricks, and haven't the slightest idea how one would go about it in the first place, I am somehow more amazed by that one little toothbrush than any other predicted miracle of physics I see for the rest of the night. 
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 Helen Sims
 Pip E-Lysaah