It’s not often you go into a show and they tell you to keep your mobile phones on, to photograph and record as much as you like, to tweet and to update Facebook throughout the evening. It wouldn’t happen at the RSC, that’s for sure. But Cirque Berserk is a different kind of theatrical experience – all the fun of the Big Top, but under a Proscenium Arch.
Mrs Chrisparkle has always been a bit sniffy about circuses. When kids like me were dreaming of running away and joining one just like Phineas T Barnum did, she was fantasising about running away and joining an accountancy college. However, over the years, her anti-circus resolve has weakened a little; although I don’t think it’s likely that she would have chosen to come to this show had it not been for the fact that we were taking my brother- and sister-in-law, plus our seven-year-old niece, just jetted in from deepest darkest Australia. The perfect show for a little ‘un, we thought. Mrs C had no choice. However, it wasn’t long before she was cheering and clapping along with the best of them, as the all-pervasive charms of the Cirque Berserk troupe broke down her stony heart and at one stage I thought I was going to have to stop her from joining Tweedy the Clown and challenging him to a baggy-pants-falling-down routine.
Ah yes, Tweedy. I’m one of those relative rare people who find clowns funny. Here in Northampton we famously had the scary clown a few months ago, who’d get photographed at weird moments in unlikely locations, sending half the population into a meltdown of fear. Not me. If I’d met him, I’d have tweaked his red nose and squirted water in his ear. But Tweedy isn’t that kind of clown. I love how modern clowning has re-invented itself with all sorts of physical comedy skills. He had some wonderful routines; the bicycle that falls apart and gets put back together like a Heath Robinson creation; the stepladder that traps him and that he uses as a walking frame; his getting two beefy assistants out of the audience to help him with his unicycle. He’s incredibly inventive and amazingly skilful and he keeps the show going throughout the whole evening.
There are some great acrobatic acts too. The Timbuktu Tumblers (I bet they haven’t been to Timbuktu) engage us from the start with great balancing tricks and I really loved their squeezing themselves under the fiery limbo pole. There are also the Tropicana Troupe from Cuba, who, with an enormous amount of slightly hilarious posing, catapult each other from one end of the stage to the other by jumping on an enormous seesaw – a really thrilling act. We also had the delights of Gabriel and Germaine swinging their Bolas Argentinas – very amusingly when his bolas almost get trapped in Gabriel’s big fluffy hair (you had to be there). Germaine is a complete star when it comes to her feet juggling act too.
You’ve heard of a ship in a bottle? They have a lady in a bottle! It’s a tight squeeze, but Odka manages it, then she emerges to sharp-shoot with her bow and arrow. There are almost too many acts to mention – Zula, with his Tower of Chairs; Laci, Rosey and Jackie balancing, twirling and acrobating in the air, and the amazing Jose and Gaby, who balance on top of each other just using one hand – an incredible feat of strength and trust. And of course, there’s the high adrenaline of the Motorcycle Globe of Death; the Lucius Team one by one enter the globe and zoom around inside this big mesh ball, with absolutely no scope for any mistiming whatsoever. I couldn’t believe it when one of the ladies joined them, just standing there as they raced around her; how on earth she didn’t end up in A&E I’ll never know.
Some circuses are all about the art; some all about the thrills. This circus definitely falls into the latter category. The audience adored it and were either on the edge of their seat with excitement, or falling off it with laughter. It would be impossible not to like this show. Truly fantastic entertainment, I couldn’t recommend it too highly. Their current tour continues to Sheffield and Cardiff – go see it!