Director: Martin Burton
Creative Director: Julius Green
Set Designer: Sean Cavanagh
Lighting Designer: Mike Robertson
Sound Designer: Matthew Bugg
Costume Designer: Dianne Kelly
Reviewer: S.E. Webster
If you’ve ever wanted to learn the art of contortion, aerial ballet or foot juggling then step away from the gymnasium and into your local theatre. Currently touring the UK, Cirque Berserk offers all of this and more, showcasing a diverse variety of acts from local home-grown talent to troupes and performers from as far afield as Mongolia and Brazil. In one mad and magical show, the self-titled ‘Berserkers’ seek to bring the circus tent under the theatre roof.
The show is a manic and marvellous mixture of circus in all shapes and sizes, from traditional acrobatics and knife throwing to more unusual acts: a lady shoots a bow and arrow using only her feet and a giant robot walks on stage spouting fire.
The Timbuktu tumblers are a multi-talented troupe who limbo and somersault their way into people’s hearts. Likewise, the audience marvels at the incredible energy and skill of Gabriel and Germaine with their flaming bolas – Argentinian throwing weapons – with which they create fast and rhythmical beats.
In particular, the audience wait impatiently for the Lucius Team – it’s the first time in the UK that the ‘Motorcycle Globe of Death’, where four bikers whizz round inside a giant globe at 60mph has been seen on stage. It’s hard to imagine how it can even be possible but seeing is believing with this particular act.
Unfortunately, this high level of skill and execution is not sustained across all of the show’s segments. Circus clown ‘Tweedy’, like one half of the Chuckle Brothers, is touted as ‘A comedy and slapstick giant’. His act becomes tedious after the fourth and fifth appearances, and as the only clown, seems to be at odds with the rest of the performers and acts.
And whilst Jackie, the strap acrobat, demonstrates huge skill, poise and control it’s unfortunately not matched by the aerial silks performers, who lack synchronised coordination and confident fluidity in their movement. It’s also frustrating to see a couple of performers sitting high up in aerial hoops being denied any opportunity at all to perform with them and at times the female performers seem to be simply framing the male acts. It would be nice to see the spotlight more on the clearly highly talented female performers within the cast.
The show struggles to strike a comfortable chord between family friendly and adult, the complexity of humour in the scenes with Tweedy is pitched very much at children, yet later episodes, which are technically brilliant, like the aerial straps performance by Jackie are much darker.
It’s unclear what, or if, there is an overarching story, audiences will be baffled by the drawn chariot of random performers carrying the head of a dragon (or is it a crocodile?) and will be further mystified by the man with the horse’s head pulling the pony trap and unconsciously bopping his head in time to the heavy beats of the music.
The apparent lack of safety devices is something that Cirque Berserk boast about in their programme, arguing that ‘the Berserkers guarantee maximum thrills by performing entirely without safety devices.’ Many of the acts are indeed daring and impressive. But when an acrobat overshoots their mark in the catapulting seesaw performance by Tropicana Troupe, landing awkwardly on another performer, or when one of the four bikers in the ‘globe of death’ hesitates and makes a false start, this attitude towards safety seems foolhardy and reckless rather than impressive.
Nevertheless, this is a bold variety show of circus performers from around the globe – an eclectic mix of talent that will enchant and entertain audiences in theatres everywhere.
Runs until 24 February 2018 | Image: Contributed