1st Feb 2015
£21.90 – £29.90
Formulated in downtown Los Angeles, Cirque Berserk started on their road of performance at the Burning Man and continued to run shows all over the United States. Direct from four sold-out seasons in London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, they come to Edinburgh.
With the Playhouse auditorium half full the floodlights went up, blinding the audience. An booming electro-rock soundtrack plays and on jump an all black athletic crew dressed in period suits, demonstrating their impressive physical abilities with a skipping rope and creating remarkable human towers, all possessing amazing physical strength and acrobatics, a feat of sheer synchronized athleticism. Followed by two aerial performers on silks, owning true agility, twisting and flipping providing many heart-in-mouth moments. Two drummers walked on stage after, one a Jack Sparrow look-a-like with good humour and the other, a fiery blonde, however their set progressed on to some underwhelming percussion with ropes. Of course no circus is complete without a clown, cue the dopey and clumsy clown, Tweedy, trundling on with an iron as a dog and a floor brush. He mimes a silly but softly amusing hat act. He then tries to fix the blown ‘CIRCUS’ sign lights, using a ladder that would have any Health and Safety officer having kittens! Another elegant glittery aerialist spins in the air but she is indistinguishable from the many others out there. An acrobatic dance duo (a swan and faun?) takes stage presenting impressive balancing feats and demonstrating exceptional strength and focus. Next up is Cuba’s eight-strong male crew (and token female) with rippling muscles and adorned in tribal feathered hats, who launch each other into high somersaults from a teeterboard. Less jaw dropping fillers parade the stage, such as flirty showgirls, Tweedy the clown returns and a robotic bouncing-stilt artist but too many acts feel ordinary.
Before the interval however we are given a taste of something quite out of the ordinary! A spherical steel cage, 14 feet in diameter, is wheeled into position one, and then two leather-clad Brazilians ride on and begin to loop the loop inside the sphere! It leaves the audience choking back exhaust fumes, but it is still breath taking nonetheless. After the interval we witness men competing at the game of limbo, the level gets lower and lower, the game gets serious when the level is set alight and one very flexible man is able to successfully limbo under a foot level. Subsequently ‘Jack Sparrow reappears spinning fire ropes from his mouth and his partner proceeds to spin various objects lying down with her feet! An outstanding contortionist follows demonstrating she can control a bow and arrow more accurately with her feet than most can do with their hands. There is knife-throwing which is scarily close and almost unbearably exciting, finishing on a turning wheel and fire daggers. Tweedy returns for some bicycle capers, before he ropes in two ‘tall strong’ men from the audience which results in some amusing tomfoolery. A female displays some breath taking balance acts and the athletic male strong crew revisits for some hoops leaping, it is as if they are made out of elastic.
The show’s finale sees the return of the jaw-slackening spectacle, the ‘globe of death’ where not two, but four motorbikes take on the human hamster sphere. A very brave young woman entered the sphere and the bikers jostled for space through a heart stopping sequence. The lighting was spectacular and over the roar of the bikes you heard individual people in the audience gasping… wow!
This being the first time I have seen a circus on stage, rather than a tent, made me think the space was a little restricting and they probably could not perform to their full potential. Upon reflection there was plenty going on, yet little sense of drama. Any magnificently dangerous moments were lost and weren’t emphasised with a high tension build up. Cirque Berserk does not meet the heady highs of Cirque du Soleil, yet there is great attention to detail in the costumes, make-up and industrial Area 51’s set. There is a plot somewhere about a traveling gypsy circus, however it is a bit fragmented featuring talented performers, who just needs some polishing. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Sarah Lewis