A trip to the circus was the highlight of the summer holidays, back in the day. Something strange and exotic, the thrill of danger, and a sugar high from candy floss. It seems likely that Cirque Berserk will have a similar impact on the young, and no so young, minds watching them at the Curve Leicester this week. This carnival spectacular of a show makes the audience gasp in anticipation, fear and amazement, in equal measures.
Created and produced by Martin ‘ Zippo’ Burton, the original Zippo the Clown, this new style of circus made for theatre melds circus artistry with the production values of a theatrical spectacular. Over 30 acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, dancers, drummers and stuntmen, plus a few multi-talented ‘clowns’, present their individual talents in a well choreographed show which just doesn’t stop.
The Timbuktu Tumblers provide an acrobatic thread through the show from beginning to end. Exploding onto the stage, they spring onto, around and over each other with boundless energy and apparently no effort. Creating pyramids and becoming human springboards, their athleticism is incredible. Quite how they manage to wiggle under flaming limbo poles a mere foot above the ground is baffling.
The tumbling isn’t confined to the stage. There are audacious aerialists using hoops, silks and ropes to create death-defying moves high above the stage. The two women of the Berserk Aerial Ballet show not only dexterity and flexibility in their display but amazing strength. All this with no safety net or line at all, and often only holding onto each other.
Strikingly original are the Bolas Argentinas – used originally as a throwing weapon, with weights on the end of cords by the ‘gauchos’ (cowboys) in Argentina – Gabriel and Germaine use them to entertain. Spinning and picking out rhythms with them on a wooden board, it is fast and furious and very skilful.
The climax of both acts is the daring Lucius Team, riding motorcycles in the ‘Globe of Death’. Back in the day, this was a Wall of Death, a gravity defying cylinder in which motorcyclists would become perpendicular to the wall. The Globe means there are no flat surfaces to even start from, and with the addition of another and another motorcyclist, it’s hard to imagine how they don’t just spin out of control and end up in a mangled heap! The control, precision and mutual trust that must exist to be able to perform this is laudable.
The production team, all experienced in producing West End shows, and under the creative lead of Julius Green, create a showcase for the talents of the performers. The soundtrack ranges from a dark ‘Sherlock Holmes’ type theme, through booming bass to fiesta style rhythms. Alongside a dramatic lighting plan, stunning costumes and a cloud of dry ice, the show creates a rather edgy atmosphere which just adds to the thrill level. It’s not the circus of yesteryear, but circus for today, with the same skills, more danger, and considerably more dramatic. Roll up, roll up, the circus is in town – it’s just swapped a draughty big top for a comfortable theatre!
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