Reviews/Circus/Fringe World Festival

Shaken, twisted and stirred, Kiwi style

26 January 2023

There’s a lot more to Laser Kiwi’s Rise of the Olive than circus tricks. Nina Levy is delighted with what she finds.

Rise of the Olive, Laser Kiwi
The Rechabite, 25 January 2023

New Zealand circus trio Laser Kiwi gives each of the 24 micro-scenes that make up Rise of the Olive a rating out of 10. That’s shared with the audience on a run sheet we’re presented with on arrival.

It’s a fitting start to a show that performer/creators Imogen Stone and brothers Zane and Degge Jarvie describe as “surreal sketch circus”.

Be warned, it turns out there’s not a whole lot of traditional circus stunts in a surreal sketch circus.

But don’t let that put you off – tricks are used judiciously and the show’s two dozen vignettes are shot through with humour that’s surprising and delightful. In particular, Degge’s deadpan delivery is so dry it crackles.

There’s a pleasingly understated quality to much of the material; like Seinfeld in circus form, the seemingly mundane becomes a source of hilarity, and occasionally morphs into one of those carefully placed feats of physical prowess.

Laser Kiwi's Imogen Stone doing a corde lisse solo in Rise of the Olive.
Laser Kiwi’s Imogen Stone shimmies and tumbles in her corde lisse solo. Photo: supplied

Yawning spawns a pop-corn throwing competition. Musings on rap spearhead a corde lisse solo by Stone. Samples become sound effects which propel her upwards, building momentum until the beatboxing and rhymes see her shimmying and tumbling up and down the rope. Stone’s grace and control is mesmerising.

As the name suggests, olives are a through-theme, whether thrown, speared, eaten or anthropomorphised. Like the rap vignette, one of the best olive scenes finishes with a stunt, and this one involves a lot of careful balancing and many attempts to get an olive into a martini glass. Like several scenes in the show, it’s not designed to work straight away. Instead, the failed attempts become part of the magic.

What’s interesting is that we’ve become so invested in these performers that we don’t need the trick to be completed for our satisfaction as much as theirs.

On opening night there’s one stunt that never comes off… and it doesn’t affect the pace of the show one bit. It’s hard to get audiences interested in the process rather than the product, but Laser Kiwi does exactly that.

Will the olive make it into the martini glass? I can’t answer that question – but I guarantee you’ll have a ball finding out.

Using their own rating system, it’s a 9/10 from me.

Rise of the Olive continues at The Rechabite until 5 February 2023.

2024 UPDATE!
Rise of the Olive has returned to Fringe World, playing The Gold Digger at The Pleasure Garden until 11 February 2024 and you can also catch Laser Kiwi in Pictionary at the Rooftop Movies, 12 February.

Pictured top: Zane Jarvie, Imogen stone and Degge Jarvie toast their show ‘Rise of the Olive’. Photo: supplied

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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