The Children Are Stinky duo are tremendously competent hand balancers, jugglers and acrobats. But – far more importantly – they also know exactly how to make kids gasp, cheer and feel confident. And that combination is what makes it magic.
In my experience, circus and variety shows aimed at children tend to be let down by one of two things. Either the performers demonstrate tremendous circus expertise, but lack the experience or natural ability to really know what makes kids tick (often it’s not necessarily the most impressive circus feats). Or the opposite: performers are brilliantly well-versed in grabbing and retaining the imaginations and attention-spans of young audiences, but demonstrate sub-par circus skill when it actually comes down to it.
Circus Trick Tease’s Children Are Stinky is therefore remarkable; the key to its success lying in the fact its two performers – Malia Walsh and Chris Carlos – are as accomplished at the former as the latter. The two Aussies, as their personas Kylie and Jason (obviously…what else could they have been called!?), are absolutely at home whilst performing complex hand balancing and juggling routines. But just as competent at truly engaging and interacting with their young audiences. They fully understand the former doesn’t necessarily guarantee the latter, and have carefully devised the show around that knowledge. That’s why it’s magic.
Walsh and Carlos both consistently demonstrate they know exactly how to make every 6-year old volunteer feel powerful, in control and somewhat empowered. And that one box does not fit all for every kid. Walsh expertly reads between the lines when one young, particularly shy participant nervously toddles onto the stage. She warmly grabs her hand, gives her a genuinely warm smile and knows exactly how to put this little girl at ease. Everything is OK again, and although the toddler doesn’t really do anything on the stage other than stand there watching, she’s made to feel a million dollars. It’s a real, bloody skill to make someone feel like that – and a delight to watch.
Through the device of trying to prove that children are “unimaginative, uncoordinated, lazy and, above all, stinky”, choreographed circus acts come thick and fast. And don’t be under any illusion that the skill on display is toned down for their young audience – the acrobatics and juggling routines are as complex/sophisticated as those in most Underbelly offerings aimed at adult audiences.
The ending is the only thing to slightly let the show down; it’s a slightly hectic amalgamation of many circus disciplines clearly intended to end on a ‘wow’. However, the young audience get slightly left behind during this final section (they are not called on to do much, or feel like part of it) – and a little bit of fidgeting quickly begins. Perhaps it’d be stronger to end with something simpler and more digestible for the tween audience – which really captures and retains every child’s full attention, and continues to make them feel like part of the show rather than a spectator. Fix that, and it really is a winner. As technically impressive for the parents as it is engaging for the kids.