Rhys Davies – The Trickster

Rhys Davies – The Trickster – was given the gift of magic on his 10th birthday. Presented with a dusty old book of tricks, Rhys was immediately enthralled. He knew he had found something special and he abandoned any ideas of growing up ‘normal’. Rhys quickly mastered some magic, went on to learn juggling, started street performing and then added a few gags into the mix. Before long he was regularly performing at local markets and festivals throughout the Bega Valley.

Running away to the circus seemed like the logical next step.

For the better part of 2016, Rhys toured New Zealand with Circus Aotearoa: a traditional style, animal-free circus in a classic big top. Rhys kept crowds entertained with pre-show entertainment – juggling knives, wobbling around on a crazy-tall unicycle and balancing chairs… on his face.

“It’s a small circus and a small crew,” Rhys explains. “Everyone’s expected to do everything! So, I also had to do cooking, cleaning, ticket sales and of course, help with the tent.” Although it’s an unusual coming-of-age story, Rhys (now 17) says the circus taught him life skills and gave him a sense of independence. “And,” he reveals with a giggle, “I also learnt how to juggle ping pong balls with my mouth.”

As Rhys reflects on his time with Circus Aotearoa, his eyes light up with the memories. “They were a good crew,” he says. “They became my circus family.” As it turned out, Rhys ended up with a member of his real family joining the crew. “When the boss was looking for someone to do odd jobs,” he explains, “I suggested my sister Ella.” And so it came to be that these two siblings found themselves touring and working together under the magical big top.

“It was nice to have family on board,” Rhys admits. Ella quickly adapted to circus life, fitting into comically large pants and “doing a bit of everything”. Cooking, making popcorn, selling tickets, driving caravans and dealing with stubborn tent pegs were all part of a typical working day. “She’s older than me,” Rhys says with a grin, “but I got to boss her around. It was quite satisfying.”

Rhys remembers how the troupe moved each week, packing up the tent and the gear to travel from town to town. He describes circus life as being “full on” – he performed in 130 shows across 25 towns. He also estimates that he consumed over two thousand coffees and more candy floss than he cares to remember.

For Rhys, running away to the circus wasn’t going to be forever. He has returned from his adventures under the big top and is preparing to pursue comedy and street performance in Melbourne. “I especially love live performance,” Rhys says. “It’s an old art, but in a world that seems to be getting so serious, laughter is more important than ever. I like the idea that I’m giving people a moment to forget life’s troubles.”