A New Zealand circus is replacing human acts with robots, puppets and 5D holography as Covid-19 border closures means foreign clowns, acrobats and stunt artists are unable to come.
Zirka Circus has for the past decade been bringing about 100 performers and support people mainly from China each year on work visas for its circus shows that tour the country.
But circus owner Jeni Hou, 42, says she was compelled to experiment with a new format after the border closed last year - just as a new set of entertainers were getting ready to fly to New Zealand.
After running for more than 10 years, Zirka Circus has become a household name in New Zealand, known for acrobatic and stunt acts by young Chinese performers.
When the curtains came down at Barry Curtis Park on Easter Monday, Hou said that would be the last time Kiwis would be seeing her circus as they know it - at least until the borders reopened.
Just eight of the performers have had their work visas renewed and they will be incorporated into a new "circus-style" stage show to debut in Albany, Auckland on April 17.
"When the pandemic hit, we knew we had to adapt or die. We're not the Wiggles, so there was no way we were going to get the Prime Minister's support for MIQ places," Hou said.
Hou was brought up in a Chinese circus family, and her father, brother and sister are also part of the Zirka Circus.
Her father used to run the Hebei Chinese Wuqiao Acrobatic Arts School, and many of the performers at Zirka are graduates of the north China school.
After discussions with the family, they came up with the new concept that replaced human acts with a puppet show, robotics and holograms in a show to be added as part of its The Amazing Dinosaur Discovery.
"We've got the script, but now we're just keeping our fingers crossed that the customised puppets arrive in time for our opening show," Hou said.
The 30-minute show will feature singing and rapping dinosaurs and puppets, which will star alongside the human acrobats.
"The audience will get to witness 'mystery walking dinosaurs' come alive, and many more extinct species make a special appearance on a world's first dinosaur 5D hologram," Hou said.
The prehistoric-themed show will be part of a two-hour interactive encounter that included 30 robotic dinosaurs from the long-necked brontosaurus to the velociraptor, fossil digging, treasure hunt and a dinosaur-themed playland.
Hou, who has been raising her two sons now aged 8 and 10 since her husband died from cancer seven years ago, said it was they who inspired her into coming up with the dinosaur theme.
"My sons are just fascinated by dinosaurs, and I think most children will be. With Covid around, our circus business will have to evolve if we are to survive," she said.
"This new show not just fun, but I want it to be educational and teaching kids about evolution, biology and encourage scientific thinking."
The Amazing Dinosaur Discovery will run in Albany, corner of Munroe Lane and Elliot Rose Ave from April 17 until May 2.