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Review: Trash Test Dummies at the Courier Mail Spiegeltent, Brisbane Festival

By Regan Baker

“A kids show, Regan? What on Earth are you doing at a kids show!”

I can just hear my mothers voice playing over and over again in the back of my head as I try to write this review. And to a degree, I suppose she is right… What was I doing at a kids show? Well, to be completely honest – I actually didn’t know it was! Similar to what I’ve mentioned in a few of my other Brisbane Festival reviews, the website doesn’t always do a great job at adequately describing what the performances are about. Trash Test Dummies falls into that category.

Tagged as being for ‘family,’ ‘circus,’ and ‘comedy,’ and partnered with an incredibly vague description, I envisioned a show along the lines of the Broadway smash hit, Stomp - but I was wrong. Do I care? NOT AT ALL! While I was the only grown up in the Spiegeltent without a little person as company, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself and laughed along like everybody else.

Although calling myself an adult can be a bit of a stretch (Ask my partner, she’ll tell you I’m just an oversized child at heart), Trash Test Dummies appeals to the young and old alike.

Originally created back in 2013, the show is now headlined by Thomas McDonald, Leigh Rhodes and the troupes first female dummy, Amy Nightingal-Olsen. The three garbologists combine circus tricks, slapstick comedy and general tomfoolery in a unique and highly entertaining manner to avoid picking up the trash that litters the stage and instead opt to use their garbage bins for just about everything but their intended purpose. Transformed into drums, cars, skateboards, bomb shelters, jail cells and so much more, the bins become a creative platform for the performers to showcase their wild and highly artistic imaginations.

McDonald, Rhodes and Nightingal-Olsen are excellent children’s performers and engaged the kids in a variety of different sketches that left their little bellies giggling. This was highlighted by the dummies accidentally throwing a huge bin bag full of plastic balls all over the audience, which lead to an all-in, ball-pit style war that broke out in all corners of the tent. The level of audience participation was perfect for the young crowd and allowed the kids to truly feel as though they were a part of the performance, evidenced by the fact they all kept running away from their seats (and their parents) and kept trying to climb onto the stage!

But of course, the true highlight of the show was the juggling and circus tricks performed throughout their on-stage sketches. While their routines (particularly the juggling) weren’t always executed perfectly, the fascination from the kids and adults alike was jaw-dropping. From incredible lifts, superb balance and airborne throws, their talent was endless. The juggling from all three dummies in particular was a standout for me, as even though I’ve been to twenty or more different magic and circus performances, their routine displayed techniques that I’ve not seen before – which is impressive!

My parents’ generation had Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges, I grew up with Mr Bean and the Umbilical Brothers and now the slapstick reins for Gen Alpha are in more than safe hands with the Trash Test Dummies. An absolute must see for every little one – and their adults!

Image Supplied

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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