Interview: Ronaldo Circus sets up

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Tom Hunt - Dominion Post

Perhaps it was the aquavit or the long Norwegian nights, but when Wellington thespian Jo Randerson saw the Ronaldo Circus drive off eight years ago she broke down in tears.

When their wagons got stuck in traffic and circus performer Danny Ronaldo ran back and gave her an old bow tie, it was all the inspiration she needed to literally run off and join the circus.

"It has such a huge effect on me. I couldn't understand what was happening," she says.

Randerson had gone to the Ronaldo family show, which was part of a Norwegian festival, with a relatively low opinion of a circus.

"I saw the show and was totally blown away. So I just adopted myself in their family and just followed them around. I think they were quite bemused by it."

She ended up following the circus for a couple of months in Belgium.

The following year she left New Zealand again for Europe and got her heavy vehicle licence, with an eye to driving a circus truck around Europe.

That didn't work out, but she ended up touring through Spain with them anyway. "It became like a long-term obsession."

That was eight years ago, but Randerson remains close to the Ronaldo family and the troupe of circus performers they travel with.

She will be looking after the family - some in their 70s - during their stay in Wellington performing Circenses at the New Zealand International Arts Festival.

The circus is one of the highlights of the festival and tickets are selling fast, with some nights already sold out.

For the first half of the show half the audience watch a conventional circus, while the other half watch from backstage as the mischievous back of the circus unfolds.

At half-time the audience switch places.

Three generations of the Ronaldo family plus other circus performers take to the stage in Circenses, in what Randerson says will be a "beautifully warm, subversive comedy" with elements of masked Italian theatre-style commedia dell'arte.

"It's not 'family fun' in a mediocre way," she says.

For Randerson a highlight will be seeing clown Karel Creemers.

"He is a really incredible, pretty unique character . . . he has kind of got this great rough look. He is always blowing things up - a beautiful, dark, subversive force."

- Circenses, Waitangi Park, tomorrow until March 18.

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