TheGreatest Show on Earth tells the story of a circus founded by Adolphus Holden – a one-legged trapeze artist, and the great-great-uncle of former pop star and Australian Idol judge Mark Holden.
“My family were musicians,” Mark said of his Colonial-era ancestors, The Holden Brothers Travelling Circus, who used to tour from Melbourne to Ceduna from 1892 onwards.
“There wasn’t any records around back then – they would bring the hits of the day to towns. There was a lot of excitement when they came would visit.
“Plus there were monkeys – around that way (Limestone Coast) you’d probably see kangaroos, but not monkeys!”
Adolphus would tour with his ten sons and one daughter in horse drawn wagons, and Mark is chuffed to be bringing his show back to where his ancestors used to perform.
He’s also familiar with the area, having visited Millicent and the Limestone Coast as he was growing up in Adelaide.
“I’ve been many times to that part of the world, and the Holden family circus used to travel to Naracoorte as well.”
Mark has spent years researching his family history to bring the show to life, but was always aware of his ancestors’ achievements.
“When I was a kid in Adelaide people always used to ask me if I had anything to do with Holden cars,” he recalled.
“I would say, ‘no, I’m with the Holden family circus’ – a completely different kettle of fish!”
Mark found fame at a young age, spending time in America and rubbing shoulders with the likes of The Temptations and David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff during his pop career.
But it wasn’t until 1996 that Australia made the connection between the pop star of the day and the travelling circus way back when.
“Bert Newton used to have a show called Good Morning Australia. We did an interview, and during it he brought up an article from an old newspaper called The Australasian Post about the Holden Brothers Travelling Circus.
“He made the connections, so I told him the story.”
The Greatest Show on Earth has already been showered with critical acclaim during the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and the Mount Gambier show on August 31 is the first stop on the regional showcase.
Mark will also be coming down to Mount Gambier on August 22, appearing at the Italian Club for the ROMAC Rotary Touchdown.
ROMAC stands for Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children, and Mark explained that in the 30 years ROMAC has been operating, they have helped around 500 children from islands in the Pacific get the life changing healthcare they need.
Mark will be a guest speaker at the event, and singing songs from The Greatest Show on Earth.
“I was an Interact kid at high school, so thought of Rotary first when I decided I wanted to retrace the steps of my family circus.
“I’m thrilled to be driving from town to town with my wife Anna and dog Rocky, just like my forebears did over 100 years ago for the ROMAC Rotary Touchdown!”
The Greatest Show on Earth promises plenty of fun, fascinating history, and brilliant songs.
“It’s an exciting time for this ex-pop star, ex-Countdown star and now barrister.”
Wait – a barrister?
“I’ve been a barrister for nine years,” Mark laughed when asked.
“I studied law in 1971 and became a barrister in 2009. It’s been thirty years in the making – you could say that I’m a slow learner!”
The Greatest Show on Earth plays:
Mt Gambier August 31
7.30pm Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, 10 Watson Terrace
Tickets for The Greatest Show on Earth are:
Adults $46.50; Friends /Club Members $40.00; Concession $41.50 and Youth under 17 $41.50.
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