Reviewer: Farhana Shaikh
Welcome to Park Gorkogo, or Gorky Park, a Moscow cultural quarter home to competing circus acts by day – and a feuding couple – a colourful park attendant who does her best to sweep the parks grounds, and rid of a pesky but over-enthusiastic suited and booted, old man – by night.
The opening is a slow burner as the old man and park attendant warm up the audience with their clowning around – mostly mishaps but much of it fails to impress the audience. A few chuckles here and there, perhaps amusing to children under ten but as the sequence continues, the act feels dated and eye-rollingly unfunny.
The set design is pushed back to reveal two park benches, a tight rope sits teasing audiences in the background – other props like steel drums, a diving board, a trampoline, a giant net, a huge bubble and others are brought on and off as and when needed for each act.
There’s nothing more perfect to wake the audience than a white pyjama-clad hunk who is simply stunning as he shows off his wares balancing on his hands, swerving and bending his back in positions that would impress a yoga guru. There’s a husband and wife whip-lashing duo who make us marvel with their dangerous stunts, teasing each other to perform the most daring of all whip lash. There’s a violin playing girl who wakes up the acrobats, a trapeze artist who somersaults across a bit of rope, a contortionist who floats in a giant bubble above the park’s skyline. In between the acts the old man and park attendant perform their own tricks – getting better at it as the night goes on.
The music and choreography are beautifully synchronised and work well to amplify each performance. At midnight, a lady in red performs a number of breathtaking sequences, pirouetting upside down hanging off a silk rope by just her neck. There’s so much talent in this troupe, it’s easy to be impressed by the sheer agility and strength of the performing acts but some of it feels rough around the edges. At times the performances sour, simply because they go on long after their ‘wow’ moment passes.
The two hours do, though, pass in a flash, there’s a twenty minute interval that gives audiences a moment to catch their breath – which is very much needed as the second half is thrilling. A graffiti gang in neon outfits juggle on steel drums, a skating trio makes us all dizzy going round and round on nothing more than a tiny circular table. The end is simply awe-inspiring.
The 360 degree view that is achievable in a big top is somewhat lost here and so is the charm of it all happening inside a giant tent. Those who have been to see modern incarnations of the circus may feel underwhelmed but few will leave disappointed. On stage, this doesn’t mean the stunts are any less dangerous or less impressive however. A great family night out.
Runs until: 8 February