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A CurtainUp London Review
The preamble to the show is audience interaction with the rather hackneyed balloon modelling but placing funny balloon hats on the heads of the unsuspecting. A real Jack in the Box leaps high into the air and the tent opens up to reveal a troupe of acrobats walking two high on giant balls and being launched into the air on a hand held trampoline. Three girls contortionists take the art of body popping to a higher level with a part dance, part shape shifting performance, making themselves into elaborate prawn shapes or storks. The trapeze artist thrills with her extravagant tail feather plumage turning her into an exotic tropical bird.
The stock circus acts fill in between the aerial excitement, unicyclists, hoop la hoops spun into shimmering silver orbs, a pickpocket who relieves an unsuspecting audience member of the complete contents of his pockets. They are undoubtedly the very best of their kind but it is the high acts which amaze. The hi wire artists stage a fencing match while balancing on the wire, a man balances on one leg with another on his shoulders again on the wire and they stage a rickshaw ride while our jaws drop in admiration.
After the intermission is the atmospheric Dance of the Dead with skeleton masks and red flames of hellfire which introduces what is for me the starring act, seen for the first time in the tent. Twin drums are lowered into the auditorium for two acrobats to spin the golden roundels while the whole structure turns on its axis. They start inside the wheels and move to the exterior with each jump back onto the moving and rotating drum, an incredible leap of faith. The company call it The Wheel of Death but I’d call it the Devil’s Treadmill as the feet of the devil dressed acrobats control its motion. An act sees a man balancing on a tower of 8 chairs which he constructs and finally the who acrobatic troupe gather to somersault on stilts.
I think clowns may be a little like Marmite and you either find them very funny or you don’t! I don’t but I was blown away by the acrobatic acts which had me gasping with amazement like a child. It’s a long show at almost three hours and not starting until 8pm which makes for a late night for everyone, especially the children. But the costumes are stunning, even for the clowning, and the lighting is spectacular. Music accompanies the acts, much of it tribal with drumming for excitement. None of the performers are credited in the programme or on the website, just the originators of the show.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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