Cirque Berserk

Feb 4 2015 | By More

★★★★☆    Skills and thrills

Edinburgh Playhouse: Sun 1 – Tue 3 Feb 2015

Breathtaking to the last, Cirque Berserk delivers the circus thrills of the big top on the theatre stage for three nights only at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

With almost 30 individual performers, this is a circus which is able to bring all the expected delights. Contortionists, knife throwers, trick riders and aerialists each bring their individual skills. A mountain of chairs is climbed, many different balances gained and fire is spun in the dark.

Tweedy at the Berserk Circus

Aberdeen-born Tweedy the Clown at the Berserk Circus

The berserkers’ armoury of full-on thrill excitement does have a few gaps. But when it comes to the big set pieces everything works fine. Most notably in the Globe of Terror, the Cirque Berserk’s signature act, which lives up to its name as motorbikes whizz around inside a tiny spherical mesh cage.

Great circus performances are about the drama of the reveal. Get that right, and the most mundane trick will turn into a memorable event. Get it wrong, and the feats of skill which carry a very real risk of failure will appear mundane.

So it is that both the Cuban Tropicana Troupe with their springboard routines and the acrobats of the Timbuktu Tumblers come across as something quite special.

Framed by the wide proscenium arch, the Tropicana’s springboard antics send them right up into the wings in a manner that seems destined to go horribly wrong as a pair of burly men jump from a high ladder onto the springboard – sending a young lad spinning up into the air to land perfectly, every time.

The Timbuktu Tumblers have a similarly usual routine: jumping through hoops. But with the added dimension of a strongman balancing act, which allows the acrobats to jump through the gaps in the tower of precariously balanced humanity.

plenty of fire

A second half limbo routine from the tumblers is equally well presented, building up to a finale involving plenty of fire and a bar set so low that it can sit on a pair of Coke bottles.

Not all the other acts are as slickly done. Individually, the aerial artists have a certain skill level. But in this kind of staging when they perform in pairs on the straps the unison work needs to be perfectly together. And the silk work just lacks the sensuality or sense of danger that a truly skilful artist can bring to it.

And for all his bluster, Toni the knife thrower’s routine is just too rushed to create the impact it might.

Yet for each of these performers who doesn’t intrigue as they might, there is another to capture the imagination. Odka, the contortionist who emerges from a bottle to fire a bow and arrow with her feet. Or Germaine who juggles balls – and fire – with her feet.

And finally – or rather woven through the whole evening as he appears several times in each act – there is the clown: Tweedy. His comedy and slapstick routines appear naive, but hide real skill and an understanding of comic timing.

Whether the Scottish-born clown is mimicking the exotic dancers, playing catch-up with his hat, falling from ladders, destroying his lovely red bike or skittering along the slack rope, he knows how to play his audience with gentle understanding, to get the loudest laughs.

You might not be able to smell the sawdust, but when the stage is lit – or more often darkened – for full theatrical effect and the pumping soundtrack turned full on, then Cirque Berserk deliver a solid circus show in the comfort of a theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (including interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA
Sunday 1 – Tuesday 3 February 2015.
Full details and tickets on the Playhouse website:

Cirque Berserk on tour:
Sun 1 – Tue 3 Feb Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
Wed 4 – Thu 5 Feb York
Grand Opera House
08448 472 322 Book online
Sat 7 – Sun 8 Feb Tunbridge Wells
Assembly Hall Theatre
01892 530613 Book online
Mon 9 – Tue 10 Feb Wimbledon
New Wimbledon Theatre
0844 871 7646 Book online
Wed 11 – Fri 13 Feb Hayes
Beck Theatre
020 8561 8371 Book online
Sat 14 – Wed 18 Feb Brent Cross Shopping Centre
Mega Dome
0871 210 2100 Book online
Fri 20 – Sun 22 Feb 2015 Cambridge
Corn Exchange
01223 357851 Book online
Mon 23 – Tue 24 Feb Hastings
White Rock Theatre
01424 462288 Book online
Thurs 26 – Sat 28 Feb Rhyl
Pavilion Theatre
01745 33 00 00 Book online
2 Mar – 3 Mar 2015 Swansea
Grand Theatre
01792 475715 Book online
Thu 5 – Sat 7 Mar 2015 Stoke-on-Trent
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649 Book online
Mon 9 – Wed 11 Mar 2015 Southport
Theatre & Convention Centre
0844 871 3021 Book online
Fri 13 – Sat 14 March 2015 Lowestoft
Marina Theatre
01502 533200 Book online
Mon 16 – Wed 18 March High Wycombe
Wycombe Swan
01494 512000 Book online
19 – 22 March Birmingham
Birmingham Rep
0121 236 4455 Book online


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