Creative Director: Julius Green
Zippo’s is renowned for taking the circus to the people of Britain. Their trucks, tents and posters are a familiar sight to all the length and breadth of the country. Now, this entertainment powerhouse has updated their productions and bought the circus to the heart of London’s West End.
To celebrate they appear to have thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at this production. The list of artists reads like a summer season in Vegas, with performers scoured from the far reaches of the world. Tumblers, clowns, acrobats, jugglers, contortionists, trapezists, dancers and even motorcyclists are bought in to entertain and amaze.
And entertain and amaze is exactly what they do. The collected talent leap, spin, tumble, swing and jump their way through nearly 2 hours of amazingly skilled performances that seem to defy both gravity and the physical capabilities of the human body. There’s no ringmaster or compere in this circus, instead the acts flow into one another, crating a sort of choreographed narrative that keeps the action moving at pace, so you get an immense amount of entertainment for your few hours.
Overall, the performances dazzle, surprise and astound in near-equal measure. The physicality on display is often jaw dropping. Some of the acts, however, do miss the mark. The clowns bring some well-executed and choreographed routines based on slapstick routines resonant with silent movies. However, despite the skills involved, it seems dated and fails to deliver the expected cheers or giggles. The Berserk Dancers seem to lack any rhythm or noticeable dance moves, and the Giant Robot, given its own page in the souvenir brochure, bizarrely appears on stage for less than 30 seconds and for no apparent reason whatsoever.
In addition to that, the traditional West End stage seems to be too inhibiting for some of the grander performers. There’s a frustration that you’re only seeing a fraction of what the trapezists and aerial acrobats are capable of and, if in a big top, you’d have more to marvel at.
But oddly, the show is most impeded by the quality of the acts they’ve presented. They say too much of a good thing isn’t good for you, and this is the sort of feeling you get with Cirque Berserk. At the onset of the show, there are, deservedly, outbursts of applause, whoops and cheers for backflips, handstands, in-flight splits and a host more physically improbable actions. However, as the show progresses, these eye-popping, nature-defying turns seem oddly normal, and you really have to catch yourself from thinking that you’re just seeing a simple fairground side-attraction.
But these, in the greater scheme of things, are minor gripes. The talent on display is a joy to watch. There are many moments when you catch your breath or start in utter bewilderment at the sheer physical dexterity you’re watching. We all have seen these acts hundreds of times before on TV, but seeing it live, and alongside so much comparable talent, is quite a wonder. Cirque Berserk really is a wonderful showcase of the exceptional creative and physical capabilities of humankind.
Runs until 11 September 2021