Cirque Beserk aim to combine a centuries-old tradition of the touring circus troupe with a contemporary approach to staging, and with a company of thirty-five performers from at least ten countries demonstrating over thirty circus skills without safety devices, they certainly have a good shot at it. From the cascading antics of the Timbuktu Tumblers to the oiled machismo of the Tropicana Troupe on the springboard, there’s definitely enough here to make you roll up, roll up.
In some ways, the classics remain the best. The speed and accuracy with which Toni hurls knives, axes and flaming whatnots at his twirling wife is just gobsmacking; the outrageously flexible Odka’s contortionist work has to be seen to be believed, particularly once she starts using a bow and arrow without her hands; and just nudging into the most impressive position for me, the charismatic Germaine Delbosq’s footjuggling is a marvellous thing indeed, proving without doubt that women can do it all 😉
And a real show-stopping moment comes at the end of each act, with the arrival of the Lucius Team and the Globe of Death. You may not think you need to see not one, not two, not three, but four motorcycles being driven simultaneously around a tiny metal round cage but it is undoubtedly most impressive (and best watched through your fingers – you wonder just how much the guy with a small fire extinguisher on the side could actually do!)
But there is something a little awry in Cirque Beserk. For all the avowed ambition to combine the traditional with the contemporary, its gender politics are seriously dated. One (male) performer has six women wafting around aimlessly during his act as decoration, and the troupe of dancing girls hark back past enlightened times. And a curiously varied soundtrack again maroons in a time too far from today for it have to the contemporary heft it purports to be embracing.
There’s a strong sense of pace about the evening though, from creator director Julius Green, and the pick’n’mix nature of the acts means that if you’re not enjoying something, say the retro clowning antics from Tweedy, it’s not long at all until the next performer rocks up onstage. If you’re looking for some half-term entertainment, this could well be worth a look.