2PM SATURDAY 10TH MARCH 2012
A History of “Circus Oz” and
"The Flying Fruit Fly” Circuses
Lorraine Hughes spoke to COSHA about this not-for-profit company that for 30 years has played an important role in the development of contemporary circus in Australia. Founded in 1979 during the International Year of the Child, it is now one of the world’s premier youth training and performance arts companies. Flying Fruit Fly is Australia’s only full time circus training institution for children. Today its graduates are working, teaching and performing in many new and emerging professional companies here and abroad. During the 1970’s, Albury-Wodonga became a growth centre, and the Development Corporation was keen to foster cultural and social initiatives in the area. In 1977 a street actor and mime artist, Robert (Bomber) Perrier was in Albury. He met Anne Gorman, the Albury-Wodonga social planner. As a result, The Murray River Performing Group (MRPG) was founded, and the members began writing and performing plays in Albury. 1979 was the ‘International Year of the Child’and the MRPG was keen to work with children.
Following the example of Circus Oz (a contemporary circus), Robert Perrier decided it would be wonderful to create a children’s circus. Despite resistance from schools and parents, a children’s circus, called The Flying Fruit Fly Circus (FFFC) began training. The main aim was to get kids together, teach them circus skills, and in the process help them develop confidence, pride, self-respect and self-discipline in a spirit of cooperation rather than competition. The older kids helped train the younger ones, and learnt to accept responsibility for their involvement. In May 1979, performing in a tent loaned by Circus Oz, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus was a great Success. In May 1980, during the Albury performances, a representative of the Canadian Children’s Festivals saw the FFFC, and invited them to to Canada to perform in Vancouver and Edmonton for the 1981 festivals. The FFFC performed in Albury, Wagga and Tumut in preparation for Canada.
Thirty-three children (aged 5 to 16), seven staff, five musicians (the Banana Band), and eleven parents ( who all paid their own way), travelled to Canada. 60,000 people came to the Festival, which featured many adult performers, and the FFFC tent was always filled to overflowing. The children performed over four weeks in Vancouver and Edmonton. One reporter said: ‘The Australian kids have an unfair advantage, because they are made of spaghetti’. This was the first time children had been the performers for a festival, and they were the ‘must see’ event. When the circus returned it was asked to perform in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. At the end of 1983, a Melbourne entrepreneur (Carillo Gantner) brought seven members of the Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe to Albury to provide a three-month training program for the Fruit Flies, Leapers, Circus Oz and 25 other Australian circus performers. They were taught skills in juggling, balancing, human pyramids, aerial acts, contortion and clowning. Later in 1984 the Leapers joined Circus Oz and performed with them at the Olympic Festival of Arts in Los Angeles, San Diego and New York. The Leapers were chosen in 1985 as Commonwealth representatives for the Peace Conference in Beijing. They also spent four weeks in studying with the Beijing Acrobatic Troupe. In Albury, the FFFC has continued on a firm foundation, running its own school and recently moved into its new home – a building specially designed for the training and development of circus skills.