Review 2: Dogs in the Schoolyard

By Catherine Lawrence
Creative Futures Photography
13 May 2021

Dogs in the Schoolyard is a moving ‘tail’ about friendship, trust and teamwork—told through exciting and skilful circus.

Just take 14 skilled circus performers, add 2 expert performers/creators, and mix well with the expertise of 8 creators/trainers… and you have the possibility of a magical experience. Sprinkle lavishly with the sound design and compositions of Guy Webster, carefully add in the set and costume design of Josh McIntosh, and illuminate with the work of Jason Glenwright (Lighting Designer). Bring it all together with the fantastic imagination of Robert Kronk (Director, writer, and creator), Elaine Acworth (writer, story, creator) and Amy Stuart (Director/Creator), and you have a mesmerising show.

Dogs in the Schoolyard is youth circus at its finest. As with the best of children’s books, this is a deceptively simple story that can be read on many levels. The plot centres on the day the rhythm of the schoolyard is disturbed by the arrival of the storm birds, and of a new dog.  During the 50 minute show, the new kid finds a friend, the storm birds rescue the dogs from the trees, and the lonely watcher is the catalyst for a joyful reconciliation between the dogs and the birds.

Watching the Flipside Circus troupe onstage, it is sometimes difficult to remember that most of the performers are under-18. Director/creator (Amy Stuart) and Performer/creators Mia Hughes and Izzy Lawton are wonderful role models for the Flipside Circus Performance Troupe (Abbey Factor, Aurora Bennett-Godde, Eden Vann, Emily Shearer, Indra Garvey, Jedda Bell, Lucy Hunterland, Luke Whitefield, Meg Barber, Oscar Morris, Samantha Giles, Teleah Richardson, Tula Holmes, Zebedee Davies). With the support of the team of creators/trainers (Aliya Abeshiva,  Chris Fleming, Alex Weckes Huck, Ellie Cox, and Davy Sampford) the creators and performers bring a repertoire of often breath-taking circus to the stage.

Picture : The Watcher and The Storm Birds (Credit: Creative Futures Photography)

Picture: The Watcher and The Storm Birds (Credit: Creative Futures Photography)

Picture : Great Teamwork (Credit: Creative Futures Photography).

Picture: Great Teamwork (Credit: Creative Futures Photography).

Dogs in the Schoolyard includes wonderful tumbling, fantastic strength and balance (including some very impressive standing on shoulders), fabulous work on the silks, excellent Chinese pole, and some quite amazing throws. Personal highlights included the elegant and beautiful storm birds (fabulous work on and around the scaffold sculpture), the duet between the new boy and the watcher, and the sheer number of lifts, jumps, and throws by the whole cast. I also loved the theatrical moments—from the joy of the new found friendship and the grace of the storm birds, through to the menace of the approaching pack and the humour of the play-time finale.

The program suggests that Dogs in the Schoolyard is a production suitable for children in the 3-8 year age range (and their families). I’d suggest that it really does work for all ages. The 13th May matinee performance held the rapt attention of everyone in the Cremorne Theatre (from ages 70+years to 7 months)—hopefully inspiring a lifelong passion for theatre and circus.I also hope that many schools took advantage of a special education rate to bring their students along to see the magic of live theatre and circus. Not only is the work of the young acrobats inspiring, but I can see how the show could be used to develop classroom discussions about bullying, and the importance of trust, friendship, and teamwork.

Verdict: A memorable piece of theatre, and a mesmerising display by a skilled team of acrobats.

Audience tip: The remaining performances in this QPAC run of Dogs in the Schoolyard (5-15 May) are already sold out, so visit their website and sign up to their mailing list to ensure you don’t miss out on future shows. Dogs in the Schoolyard is an all-ages show, recommended for 3-8 year olds and their families (50 minutes). Tickets were $35 ($29 for family tickets and schools).

Dogs in the Schoolyard is a Flipside Circus production in association with Assembly of Elephants, and supported by QPAC’s Out of the Box Festival. Congratulations also to the managers: Gabriella Gallardo (Production), Yani Dubler (Stage Manager) and Kelsey Booth (Co-stage Manager/Associate Artist). This clearly a great team effort.

The reviewer attended the Thursday 13th May 2021 show (10am).