Opera House, Wellington

09/03/2015 - 14/03/2015

Capital E National Arts Festival

Production Details

Circa (Brisbane) presents the New Zealand premiere of Carnival of the Animals

Our zebras juggle and flip… 
Our kangaroos skip and somersault…  
We’ve elephants with street-cred and rhythm… 

The Australian Circa Carnival comes to the capital city in the New Zealand premiere of Carnival of the Animals as part of the Capital E National Arts Festival 2015. On Saturday 14 March at 1pm and Saturday 21 March at 11.30am at The Opera House, whimsical tales of creatures of land and sea, who tumble, fly, leap and spin their way through the many wondrous worlds of the animal kingdom.

Carnival of the Animals will whisk audience members away on a thrilling circus escapade inspired by Camille Saint-Saëns delightful salute to feathers, fur and fins. Circa’s acrobats bring this classical music suite to life for a whole new generation of circus, music and animal lovers.

Festival Producer Melanie Hamilton says, “Since 2006, Circa has toured to 30 countries across six continents. We’re excited to welcome the critically acclaimed company to New Zealand in a show we know will be a spectacle for all.”

The company is relevant across cultures, audiences and venues. It’s the appeal of something that is skillful, but hasn’t forgotten that to be human is, in the first instance, to feel. Circa’s creations are stirring tributes to humanity: affirming the potential of our bodies, the depth of our emotions and our infinite capacity for wonder. It finds new emotional landscapes inside what is generally considered to be a spectacle.

Circa comes from Brisbane, Australia and presents a bold new vision of contemporary circus. Their work has been rapturously received by audiences, presenters and critics around the world. Critics have raved about Circa calling the work “stunning…exquisite… heart stopping” and “electrically charged”.

Their current touring shows span diverse contexts from works for families in traditional arts centres to European contemporary arts festivals. Its works are highly innovative genre bending pieces that stretch the practice and perceptions of circus. In 2013 Circa performed over 420 performances to audiences of over 150,000 people locally, nationally and internationally. On top of our term based and one‐off training activities, Circa has an impressive track record of producing quality workshops for children, young people and adults in a range of community contexts. In 2013 Circa’s Training Centre programs reached an audience of over 19,000 people 

Education performances: Junior Week, 9-13 March
Public performances: Saturday 14 March at 1pm and Saturday 21 March at 11.30am

Tickets for Carnival of the Animals can be purchased online on the Capital E website.

To view the full Festival programme visit

Theatre , Circus , Children’s ,

45 mins

Beautiful, ingenious, magical

Review by Jo Hodgson 10th Mar 2015

As we walk into the Opera House, we – my four and two year olds and I – encounter paired lines of school children making their way into the theatre. There is an excited hubbub of chatter as they file into the rows ready for the first of up to three shows they will see today.  

“Do you know what you are coming to see?” I ask a boy in front of me. “I think it’s a magic show,” he tells me. “The suitcases are going to disappear” – referring to the abandoned travel cases piled up on the otherwise empty stage. 

The lights dim and a lone clown enters: the ring-mistress maybe?  With a percussive bang of her staff, the performers begin their journey, transforming the set into a realm of imagination, using theatre magic and acrobatic wizardry.

There are cheers, wows and audible gasps from this young audience as the highly skilled Circa performers, whirl, leap, twist, roll, swing and body-contort every which-way to make the carnival animals cleverly emerge out of each person with figurative feathers, fur and fins.

The mix of circus tumbling, trapeze and clowning humour – illustrating the deep sea aquarium, break dancing elephants who in Ogden Nash’s words are ‘ equipped with handles at both ends’, juggling roosters, paper birds and the exhilarating rope jumping kangaroos (Skippy would be proud) – is magical to experience.

This production, created by director Yaron Lifschitz and a talented team including lighting designer Jason Organ and the black and white costuming by Libby McDonnell often producing a natural strobe effect, is a truly beautiful piece of interactive theatre.

The synergy of the performers and the physical storytelling coupled with the clever use of Michaela French’s video design connects the multimedia animations that are not only the back drop of our world habitat tour, but as props, and costume in a seamless segue between the screen and the animal characters. 

Sound designer/composer Quincy Grant masterfully weaves Camille Saint-Seans’ brilliantly written and familiar melodies with his own complementary 21st century compositions. They ingeniously pay homage to every one of the original animals, and a couple more besides, with inspired modulations and orchestration nicely interspersed, with the performers providing their own troubadour-style accompaniment on such instruments as cajon, melodica, ukelele, guiro, whistle and didgeridoo. The recurring witty play on a six-note motif from the introduction of the ‘Carnival of the Animals Suite’ is a very useful connector theme.   

The audience cheers and joins in with the carnival finale (the upper-level children try to which causes a few panicked ‘sit downs’ from the adults and ushers) while the on-screen and live performers bring this fabulous show full circle, packing this magical tour back into the travel cases to a tidy finish.  

Verdict from the four year old: “All of it was my favourite”; from the two year old: “shark, kissing shark” and the catch phrase of the day from the school kids: “It was awesome!!!”


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