TV

‘I ran away with the circus’

Marie Weber reveals what it's like bringing up eight kids on the road

For many people, the idea of exposing their lives on a reality TV show would be a nerve-wracking prospect. But for Marie Weber, whose family are the stars of the local Bravo reality series The Circus, it was a unique opportunity to show the world what running away with the circus is really like.

“People know us because we’ve been travelling around New Zealand and the world for a long time,” says Marie, 43, who runs the Weber Bros Circus with her husband Harry. “There’s always that mystery about what happens behind the scenes. The show gives people some insight into the hard work that goes into touring a permanent travelling circus.”

The second season of the family’s hit show is Marie’s favourite so far as they filmed it in beautiful Queenstown and, more importantly, it features the engagement of her eldest daughter Kiarnna, 22, to her longtime boyfriend Ivan Souza, 30.

“We’ve got about 50 of us who all travel together, so it’s tough. But we always look after each other.”

The loved-up pair, who have been together for six years, met when Ivan joined the Weber Bros Circus in 2012, but it took a few years for romance to blossom. Now, Ivan is part of the family and has Marie’s seal of approval.

“My heart is super happy and Ivan is definitely the right boy for her,” she enthuses.

But Marie admits her motherly worries kicked in when she first found out about the relationship.

“I look at her and I just think, ‘Oh, you’re babies, don’t do anything.’ But at 22, I already had two kids!”

With eight kids to manage – Kiarnna, Dalton, 21, Dylan, 20, Kaleah, 18, Ryder, seven, Rosie, six, D’Artagnan, four, and Diesel, two – and a travelling circus to run, there is never a dull day in Marie’s life.

When she speaks to the Weekly from the family’s latest stop in Dunedin, the sounds of Marie’s young children playing in the background float through the phone and occasionally our conversation is interrupted when mum is needed.

“My heart is super happy and Ivan is definitely the right boy for her,” she enthuses.

With the arrival of Covid two years ago, Marie and Harry, 57, who is a seventh-generation circus performer, have had the added pressure of supporting their travelling troupe while navigating the changing restrictions.

“Everyone’s livelihood just stops all of a sudden,” Marie laments. “We’ve got about 50 of us who all travel together, so it’s tough. But we always look after each other.”

Under red traffic light restrictions, the Weber Bros Circus has once again had to cancel their upcoming performances. Marie says they considered adding more shows to make up for the fact they can only perform to audiences of 100 people, but laughs, “Shooting a man out of a cannon 20 times a week is not really good health and safety.”

Marie grew up in the small coastal town of Kawakawa Bay, just south of Auckland, and was fresh out of high school when a visit to the circus and a chance encounter with Harry, its charismatic German ringleader, changed the course of her life forever.

“I literally ran away with the circus,” she laughs. “And I haven’t looked back!”

‘They’ve been able to see the world. It’s a great way for children to grow up’

Though at 18 she didn’t have a plan for her future, Marie never imagined she would be part of a travelling circus. But she says she wouldn’t change anything about her “unexpected” life on the road with her family.

“I love that the kids are always around us. For school, they run next door to the mobile classroom, then they’re back for lunch. And they’ve been able to see the world, including South Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. I think it’s a great way for children to grow up.”

Unsurprisingly, Marie’s children are following in their father’s footsteps and her four eldest kids are regular performers in the big tent. Kiarnna and Kaleah are both talented trapeze artists, while Dalton and Dylan are daredevils on their motorbikes.

“They’ve grown up with it. So, while it is scary, they all train really hard to make sure they are good at what they do,” Marie explains. “And they just love it. Even the little ones are starting to perform now.”

As she looks to the year ahead, Marie says she is looking forward to more adventures with her family, maybe even some forays overseas. And Covid permitting, the Weber circus will finally tick off a bucket list destination.

“We have been to just about every town in New Zealand, but the one place we keep trying to go to, and Covid keeps getting in the way, is Greymouth,” Marie laughs. “But we will get there!”

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