Roll up, down, round and over

lucius team

A Lucius Team trio whirl around the Globe of Death

Cirque Berserk

Birmingham Rep

****

IT is amazing what the human body is capable of – although to be honest mine declined to be involved in this discussion.

It was not really a matter of don’t as can’t try this at home, and certainly not without a chiropractor standing by as the circus came to town.

It brought with it the traditional acts we grew up with in the days of big tops and Charlie Cairoli, acts  such as Toni the Czech knife thrower, or Germaine, the fabulous foot juggler from France. Then we had Odka, a young lady from Mongolia who managed to squeeze herself in a bell jar and then shot a bow and arrow with her feet in a sort of contorted handstand, hitting the target near centre to boot.

Then there was Luciano Gabriel who gave us Flamenco with balls, well bolas really, from Argentina and all to a pulsating beat.

Amazing acrobats came from Africa with the Timbuktu Tumblers while Cuba provided the Tropicana Troupe who flew through the air with the greatest of ease, most of the time, from a springboard.

Duo Benelo from France showed hand to hand balancing while Kremina dispensed with the need for a man in her act balancing instead on a tiny pedestal no bigger than her hand.

There is Zula, Mongolia again, with a tower of chairs and England’s Stephanie and Jackie balancing high on aerial silks and straps.

For fun there is Tweedy, a clown from Scotland who mixes clownish daftness, a little overdone at times, with circus skills including a tandem turned into a unicycle and slack rope walking.

To go with the dramatic music is a huge robot, hiding Billy, again from England, which was dramatic but didn’t seem to have a purpose, and indeed a similar accusation could be made about a couple of parades that made their way across stage, one with some unfortunate giant creature's head on a cart. What was that all about?

The acts are good, very good in some cases, Odka firing arrows with her feetwith the bolas of Luciano Gabriel a spectacular addition to the circus genre – he was joined by Germaine in his act – and all are typical circus acts we have grown up with the lady in a bottle perhaps more side show than big top but we will let that pass.

That is not surprising, after all, it might be classed as modern, contemporary or theatrical circus, but it is still circus – complete with glamorous dancers with feather tails.

Never saw Robin Hood try that. Odka puts her best foot forward. Picture:  Piet-Hein Out

And any circus needs a big finale. I still remember the thrill as a child when Blackpool Tower Circus flooded the ring, as it still does, for its water spectacular ending. For Cirque Berserk it is motorbikes which bring both acts and the show to a close..

Remember the Wall of Death? This is the ball of death, are more accurately Globe of Death, a steel mesh globe structure which allows vertical as well as horizontal looping. If that sounds pretty scary then make it four motorbikes of the Lucius Team from Brazil looping and whirling around and then chuck in a glamorous if somewhat insane assistant who for a few moments stands amid all this whirling machinery with just a smile for protection.

To be fair there were only three bikes passing within inches of her so her survival chances were 25 per cent better than they could have been.

Circus acts can be dangerous especially without safety nets or lines, but you can literally taste the danger of the Globe of Death amid the noise and hint of exhaust fumes. One error and there is a four bike pile up.

The act has also lived up to its name. At least three people have died in Globe of Death acts since the war and riders know a crash usually means a minimum of broken bones.The world record is six riders and an assistant all at one time, incidentally.

With more than 30 jugglers, acrobats and circus artists and a pulsating soundtrack the show keeps up a high tempo, which perhaps papers over a lack of direction and continuity. There is no introduction, explanation or ringmaster hyperbole; act follows act at breakneck speed.

It is fast, furious, fun and, to be honest, the mad bikers from Brazil are worth the price of the ticket alone. To 22-03-15

Roger Clarke

19-03-15 

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